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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

More Campus Police OKd for College District

May 20, 1999|JENNIFER HAMM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In an effort to curb rising crime rates on the county's community college campuses, trustees have decided to spend an extra $280,000 to add police officers.

Agreeing that campus security is a top priority, the Ventura County Community College District board voted unanimously late Tuesday to hire eight campus police officers.

"We've got to do it around the clock with as many officers as possible," said trustee Bob Gonzales, who is also Santa Paula's police chief.

Board members had the choice of hiring more campus police or contracting with a private security company to canvass the grounds of the three campuses overnight. Hiring more district officers was more expensive, but trustees agreed it was worth the cost.

"Certainly, safety is foremost on our minds after Colorado," said trustee Norman Nagel, referring to the shootings at a Littleton, Colo., high school.

This is the first time in 18 years that the district is adding police. The new officers will bring the size of the force to 19.

Although the county's colleges are rated among the safest in the state, crime has been on the rise.

"The more [students] you have, the more incidents you are going to have," said Jamie Skeeters, the district's police chief.

In recent years, Moorpark and Ventura colleges have had an increase in crime, but Oxnard College has had a decline. The most serious incidents in the past year, however--three aggravated assaults--took place at Oxnard College.

Increasing enrollment made the need for more officers even more pressing, Skeeters said.

Skeeters spent eight months visiting schools around the state to find out what would work best on Ventura County campuses. He said he was thrilled about the board's decision.

"They had the foresight to realize that the present situation was not working, was not adequate for the protection of the students, faculty, staff and visitors of the district," he said.

Along with adding officers, Skeeters is implementing a campus-oriented policing program, which will involve students and faculty in setting policing strategies. The first training session begins Monday.

Skeeters has also worked to improve the relationship with other police departments.

"We could not survive without the mutual cooperation of the Oxnard Police Department, the Ventura Police Department and the Ventura County Sheriff's [Department]. They have saved our bacon many times," said Skeeters. "And we can't always depend on them. That's why we need our own officers."

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