At the third Binghamton University Council meeting of the academic year on Friday, BU’s annual security and safety report revealed that there were 1,290 crime incidents reported by BU’s New York State University Police Department (UPD) in 2018, a noticeable decline from the 1,403 reported in 2017.

The BU Council is composed of 10 members, nine of which were appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and one student representative elected by the student body each year. The Council performs various supervisory roles and is tasked with reviewing plans to improve and alter the University.

On April 12, the meeting began with a security and safety report delivered by David Hubeny, executive director of emergency management. During his presentation, Hubeny discussed improvements in campus lab safety in 2018, when 474 safety audits were performed in BU laboratories and 955 individuals received lab safety training.

Fire safety was also a focus of the security and safety report. Hubeny broke the University’s fire safety procedures down by the numbers: 258 fire drills were performed in 2018, as well as 3,000 monthly fire extinguisher inspections. In addition, 538 individuals received fire safety and prevention training last year.

Hubeny also summarized the actions that BU has taken to improve and expand its emergency notification system, a change that came after the murder of Joao Souza in Windham Hall of Mountainview College in spring 2018, when a B-Alert was sent out 45 minutes after Souza’s stabbing and was not received by all members of the campus community. One of the foremost issues with emergency notification systems, according to Hubeny, is the difficulty in finding a single method of communication to reach faculty, staff and families. He said encouraging students to register for text alerts has been a point of difficulty for the University, with participation in text alerts hovering around 36 to 38 percent in summer 2018.

“We weren’t satisfied with that and we knew we had to fix it,” Hubeny said. “This past summer, we partnered with communications and marketing and Information Technology Services to look for new opportunities to create a new system for how we register folks for the program.”

According to Hubeny, the program saw a sharp increase in participation after BU switched from an opt-in to an opt-out system. As of February 2019, the participation rate was at 86 percent, although Hubeny said the University would like to see even more participation.

“We’re still looking to get higher than 86 — we’re not satisfied with that, but we’re really pleased with that number,” Hubeny said.

BU also made the decision to implement “easy buttons” to make it easier for University officials to send out emergency alerts efficiently and quickly.

“These are six buttons located in our dispatch center downstairs,” Hubeny said. “If our dispatchers or officers have high confidence that there’s a critical incident occurring, they can just reach over and hit one of these buttons. This will simultaneously activate multiple modes of the system. It allows us to push out that initial message not in minutes, but in seconds.”

The safety report also included a presentation from University Police Department (UPD) Chief John Pelletier, who discussed police activity throughout 2018. UPD, which is composed of 43 sworn police personnel and 63 total department members, received 4,168 service and regulation calls in 2018, up from 4,013 in 2017.

“Service calls could include someone locking their keys in their car, or somebody not being able to get into their office,” Pelletier said. “If it’s not criminal, it’s a service call.”

Criminal incidents, however, declined from the previous year. According to Pelletier, 1,290 crime incidents were reported to UPD, as opposed to 1,403 in 2017. In 2018, more than 500 of those cases were referred to Student Conduct and did not result in arrests, with UPD arresting 262 people on 327 charges.

“Our Student Conduct is very busy — they do a great job,” Pelletier said. “That shows some of our officers’ discretionary power — how we do our day-to-day business. More so, I think, than any other police department in the area, our officers are allowed to use a lot more discretion. There’s a lot more places we can use it as an educational moment.”