SSU Police chief discusses armed robbery, future of campus secur - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

SSU Police chief discusses armed robbery, future of campus security

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

The police chief at Savannah State University is speaking out for the first time since an armed robbery on campus Thursday.
 
Chief James Barnwell has only been with the campus police department for about two months now, and he is eager to start making some changes.

The chief spoke exclusively to WTOC about the confusion over whether an alert ever went out to students and faculty after Thursday morning’s armed robbery at an on-campus apartment. Chief Barnwell says several alerts were sent.
 
"We put out an immediate notification to alert the students, faculty, staff, and parents on the campus that there had been a serious incident on the campus,” said Chief Barnwell.

The chief showed me records he claims prove the alerts were sent beginning a half hour after security was notified of the crime.

However, I wasn't allowed to examine the reports closely, or take copies.

Chief Barnwell says the first alert went out at 1:59 a.m. A second, more detailed one was sent a minute later at 2 a.m. and a third "all clear" alert was sent at 2:52 a.m.

"And we have anywhere from either 86 to 89 percent success rate - or delivery rate, I should say - within the notification system from Thursday morning,” said Chief Barnwell.

However, a source on campus said no alert was sent. Several students we spoke with who say they are signed up to receive alerts didn't receive any either.

We also spoke with a faculty member Friday who says the only alert he received was an email, 16 hours after the incident.

Nevertheless, Chief Barnwell said he wants to make incidents like this less frequent.

He's pushing for more community-oriented policing. Plus, another initiative is already underway.

"We're going to evaluate the campus for lighting, for greenery - if the tree canopy needs to be trimmed back where more light can shine through, we're going to do that to make it brighter,” Chief Barnwell said.

The process also includes re-evaluating the placement of security cameras on campus.

The chief is also working on forming an advisory council made up of students and police. The hope is to bridge the communication gap and encourage more students to share their concerns with the department.

"We want that buy-in from them, we want that participation, we want to engage them, we want to challenge them, to help them develop their police department as we grow,” said Chief Barnwell.
 
That student advisory council is something they're developing now. Chief Barnwell says it will launch in the coming fall semester.

As for the issue of whether students were notified there were gunmen on campus early Thursday morning, the school insists it sent alerts. We have yet to find a student or faculty member who says they received them. 

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