UCSF Responds to Concerns About Safety and Security After Series of Town Halls

New Shuttle Line Among Improvements After Feedback from Campus, Medical Centers

By Dan Fost

UCSF Police Officer Patrick Moncada talks with off-duty Sergeant Che Heron.
UCSF Police Officer Patrick Moncada (left), on patrol at the Parnassus campus, talks with off-duty UCSF Police Sgt. Che Heron. Photo by Susan Merrell

During National Campus Safety Awareness Month, UC San Francisco reminds faculty, staff, students and trainees that it’s incumbent on everyone to be vigilant and to be informed about what’s happening during an emergency situation.

The easiest way to be notified of important safety alerts is to sign up for the UCSF mass-notification system WarnMe, a service operated at UCSF by the UCSF Police Department that can alert those who sign up to something happening that may affect their safety on campus.

UCSF is also hosting a number of forums during this month to address safety issues, such as what to do in case of an active shooter.

Keeping UCSF safe – with numerous locations spread out across San Francisco and points beyond – is a top priority for UCSF leaders. Earlier this year Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, convened a task force charged with brainstorming ideas for improving the safety and security of the UCSF community.

The group, co-led by Vice Chancellor Teresa Costantinidis and UCSF Health Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Vincent Johnson, met throughout the spring, asked for people’s thoughts through emails and questionnaires, and in June convened seven town hall meetings at Parnassus, Mission Bay, Mount Zion, and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center to hear community concerns and spread the word about what UCSF is already doing to keep us all safe. Among actions taken:

  • Continuing to deliver active shooter response training (more than 3,000 people have already been trained);
  • Providing UC Police Department radio systems to UCSF Health security officers ensuring direct communication when during emergencies;
  • Increasing police and security staffing levels, including a new police substation at the Emergency Department at the medical center on Parnassus;
  • Upgrading campus security cameras and increased checking to make sure campus emergency alarms are working;
  • Improving crosswalks on Mount Zion and Parnassus campuses;
  • Implementing a new key system on the entire Parnassus campus;
  • Adding emergency phone numbers to the UCSF Mobile Concierge (which users can download for free from Apple iTunes or Google Play); and
  • Launching a “See Something, Say Something” campaign, with prominent signs telling people to report suspicious activity to campus police.

More than 200 people attended the town halls, and the campus and UCSF Health began responding to myriad recommendations, including quick fixes like replacing broken lights.

Some of the issues raised, however, will require more education, such as instructing folks on what to do when they encounter transients sleeping in UCSF garages, and others will require citywide attention, such as the encroachment of tents popping up along city streets. As for what to do when one encounters a person sleeping in an alcove or garage, call UCSF Police’s non-emergency number. UCSF Police then contacts a representative of the City of San Francisco who works with people who are transient.

During the town hall meetings, attendees were polled about their opinions on campus safety using a real-time, web-based survey tool. Among those polled at all town hall locations, 40 percent said they felt “safe” and 25 percent that they felt “very safe.” Only 10 percent said they felt “unsafe.”

A UCSF shuttle with the a sign that reads "UCSF Red Limited"
Based on safety concerns of workers at the Mission Center Building, Transportation Services has added a Red Limited Shuttle.

When asked where they feel the least safe place is at UCSF, 39 percent said “the neighborhood surrounding my office” and 22 percent said, “when I cross the streets to get to/from campus locations.” The third highest response was “where I park car or bike,” with 13 percent.

Those working at the Mission Center Building (MCB) voiced the most comments and concerns about the neighborhood surrounding that location during the town hall poll. In response, Transportation Services added a Red Limited Shuttle for service to and from BART and Mission Center Building and 1550 Bryant St.

Costantinidis appreciated people suggesting that the campus outline a safe route to work for commuters who travel through the Mission District. “One of the areas of concern that folks have is about their safety as they’re getting to their buildings,” she says. “Based on a suggestion from the audience, UCPD has designated a safe route to work for those people walking from the 16th Street BART station to Mission Center Building.” This route was communicated to the building, along with other safety tips.

For more information on what to do in different emergency situations and personal safety tips, visit the UCSF Police Department website.

Lisa Cisneros contributed to this report.

For more campus news and resources, visit Pulse of UCSF.