On Oct. 30, 1999, a McDonald’s employee was robbed and fatally shot in the Main Street restaurant’s parking lot shortly after closing. The incident triggered fear throughout the Bradley community.
Within three months, emergency blue light phones were installed on campus. Since its introduction in 2000, the emergency phones have provided students with a sense of security.
“Emergency preparedness is always a good thing to have,” said senior physics major Ryan Crawford. “It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.”
Earlier in this school year, two additional emergency blue light phones were installed to accommodate student residents living at Main Street Commons. The addition of these phones brings the total number of emergency phones on campus to 75.
Of all the emergency phones, roughly 30 of them are in high traffic areas on campus such as residential halls and academic buildings. The other 40 poles are located on the floors of parking garages and in St. James apartment complex.
Although the Bradley University Police Department is unable to retrieve usage data from the phones, Police Chief Brian Joschko said the phones are used often.
“We have had accidents recorded with the phones, and they are used for the request of services, like a jumpstart or lock out [of a building],” he said. “So there certainly is a value to having these phones.”
Joschko said even though the phones aren’t often used in emergency situations, it doesn’t mean they are not beneficial to the Bradley community.
“They allow a student or visitor a means of contact to have questions answered,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be criminal in nature or be used by a victim of a crime. It is just a means to contact authority, providing a quicker response and a sense of safety and security on campus.”
In 1999, Student Senate passed a resolution requesting the university to install 17 new emergency telephones on campus. The resolution stated that the 17 new emergency telephones would replace the 19 already existing telephones on campus.
“If we have one emergency, if it saves one person’s life or it if benefits that person, then it’s justifiable,” said Aaron Freeman, former All-School President, then student body president, in the Dec. 3, 1999 issue of the Scout. “If someone is unable to call for help, that’s a detriment. We hope to God that we never have to use it, but if it helps even one person, then it’s worth it.”
Vice President of Student Affairs Alan Galsky said safety on campus was not only a concern of Student Senate, but it was a joint concern of the Parents Board as well. He said it took about 60 to 90 days from when Student Senate proposed the resolution to when the first emergency phone was installed.
“It was like they were installed over night,” he said. “I remember walking on campus and thinking ‘Why didn’t we do this five years ago?’ It provided an immediate sense of comfort and security . . . that you could feel and sense.”
After the emergency phones were gradually installed, they were used for both emergency and assistance reasons. Because they were new they were used more often, Galsky said.
“[The phones were installed] before there was any real use of cell phones,” he said. “They were there and people were willing to use them, whereas a person today might feel that it’s just as easy to use their cell phone. I was made aware by the student body that they have been used on a daily basis.”
Vice President of Business Affairs Gary Anna said because the phones were installed at a time when no one carried a cell phone, they were used simply to get in contact with others. And that only a handful of those calls were made in the event of an emergency.
“I remember calling the office from one of the phones just to tell them if forgot something,” he said. “It was just a convenience.”
Today, all calls made to any of the emergency poles are dispatched to the Peoria City Police Department. Depending on the situation, BUPD, Peoria PD and/or the fire department will be dispatched to the location of the emergency phone.
Joschko said the department has made it a priority to respond to every call, so even if a phone is activated but no one is on the phone line, officer will be dispatched to the location.
“I haven’t used one before but [it is] beneficial,” said junior biology major Andrew Kirby. “Especially with all the muggings on campus. If your phone was taken you can use one of the [emergency] phones.”
Each phone is tested by BUPD officers once each week, not only to make sure they work, but to make sure the reception is clear, Joschko said.
Although Joschko said he is not actively pursuing to expand the program, he said adding emergency phones to off-campus streets is a place that will be evaluated because it is a central place where students reside.
“Adding emergency phones off campus is physically possible,” he said. “However in order to place a phone on someone else’s property we would have to handle legal issues and the resident would have to pay the electricity to run the [structure]. It would be a monetary investment, and not a cheap endeavor.”