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Another Voice: UB must consider public safety in its planning

By Daniel De Federicis

The development of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus is certainly one of the best things to happen to Buffalo and Western New York this century. In a city that has been suffering from decline for many decades, this sprawling consortium of health care entities, research facilities and medical education institutions will deliver world-class health care and cutting-edge education and research, and will be an economic driver for the entire region.

That is the good news.

The bad news is that the University at Buffalo, one of the key partners in this endeavor and which owns much of the campus property including its planned new medical school, is abdicating its responsibility to ensure adequate police coverage and campus safety. UB’s inaction on these critical issues, despite inquiries and guidance from its own police officers, has led to problems involving criminal activity and a looming feeling amongst some that the campus is unsafe.

UB recently announced plans to incorporate Buffalo’s Metro Rail system into its medical school building planned on the western edge of the campus. A recent Buffalo News article noted that this dual purpose is “… a role assigned to few – if any – medical schools around the world.” The inclusion of a subway inside a campus building will increase the already significant challenge of ensuring safety on this urban setting. I only wish UB applied the same proactive approach it used planning transportation and parking for the campus to the crucial issues of safety and police protection.

The Police Benevolent Association of New York State – the labor union that represents, among others, university police officers at UB – has shared concerns with UB officials regarding safety and police coverage for the campus. Union officials have communicated with a number of university officials to inquire if and when UB’s highly trained and dedicated police officers will be assigned to the new campus. UB officials’ answers have been noncommittal, and in some instances nonexistent.

Meanwhile, we continue to read stories in the media reporting serious crimes on the campus, such as when a campus parking attendant was robbed at gunpoint in December.

UB can certainly do better than to relegate the police protection and safety of its students, staff, visitors and facilities on the downtown campus to the back burner.

In order for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to be truly successful, installing a strong police presence and ensuring the safety of the public can no longer be ignored and must become a top priority.

Daniel De Federicis, a native of Cheektowaga and an alumnus of the University at Buffalo, is executive director of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State.