May 30, 2023
Temple University is being urged to create a new public safety plan that includes the North Philadelphia neighborhoods that surround its main campus.
A resolution introduced in City Council last week on behalf of President Darrell Clarke calls for city officials and university leaders to team up to make the North Philly area a safe place for people to study, live and work. It comes amid a spike in violent crime near Temple.
The resolution also calls for the creation of a task force charged with improving safety and addressing the underlying factors that contribute to violence. The task force should include city officials, police, representatives from the District Attorney's Office, university officials, community stakeholders and local elected officials, the resolution states.
"These public safety issues and any acts of violence happening anywhere near the Temple University campus aren't happening in a vacuum, and the community must have a seat at the table and be part of any recommended solutions to make our neighborhoods safer for students, university staff and residents alike," Clarke said in a news release.
City Council is expected to vote on the resolution in the weeks to come.
Temple has faced several "high-profile" incidents of violence in and around its campus, Clarke noted. The resolution includes two recommendations from the audit of the university led by 21CP Solutions and former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. The results were released in April. It was commissioned in early 2022.
The 131-page audit included 68 recommendations for improving safety in the Temple area. They focused on crime and physical safety, support for the Temple University Police Department, police engagement with the university and critical police interactions, The Temple News reported.
The audit also recommended Temple evaluate its existing resources for sexual assault victims, house Temple's police department in a central location, establish hiring incentives for police officers and find alternatives to police for 911 calls involving mental health concerns.
"The city of Philadelphia has an obligation and a responsibility to work with all the universities and businesses to create an environment where they can thrive," Ramsey said in April. "Philadelphia is one of many cities across the country that is dealing with these challenges, and it will take a broad approach with a variety of stakeholders to change the dynamic that's currently taking place."
A Temple spokesperson said the university is "leading a wide-ranging, collaborative effort to enhance public safety in our campus community" based on the audit's "core recommendations."
"We applaud and are deeply grateful for the City Council's expected resolution introduced (last week), which recognizes the importance of these efforts, and sets exactly the right tone as we and our partners move forward to have a real and lasting impact on reducing violence and improving the quality of life in North Philadelphia."
Temple has faced an influx of violence in recent years. Earlier this year, Temple police officer Christopher Fitzgerald, was shot and killed while pursuing suspects allegedly involved in a carjacking. Miles Pfeffer, an 18-year-old from Bucks County, has been charged with murder.
Former Temple President Jason Wingard, who resigned in March, had committed to enhance the university's safety infrastructure, including increasing its campus safety force by 50% and partnering more closely with police to patrol nearby areas off campus.
Those measures were prompted by the shooting death of 21-year-old Samuel Collington, a senior political science major who was targeted in a carjacking near campus in November 2021. In January 2022, Hyram Hill, the 23-year-old son of a Philadelphia police officer, was fatally shot just south of Temple's medical campus.
As part of the university's efforts to recruit and retain staff at its police department, three recent graduates of Temple's criminal justice program joined the force in March, bring its total to 170 people.