McNair focuses on a safer AU
Experiences guide changes
Campus safety has been a major concern for the AU community since the latter part of fall semester, when a series of sexual attacks occurred on campus. As a safeguard against crime, Michael McNair, the newly hired acting director of Public Safety, is determined to ensure that the campus is as safe as possible.
McNair replaced former Public Safety Director, Colleen Carson, who left the University last semester.
McNair worked as a colonel and a deputy chief of police at the University of Maryland-College Park Police Department, which is a division of the Maryland State Troopers, for almost 32 years and retired last year. Although McNair retired only eight months ago, he was eager to accept the position at AU.
"[I like] being in charge of stuff, having the opportunity to be creative and being able to make a difference," McNair said.
One of McNair's specialties is his ability to determine the problems within an organization and find ways to use technology in order to reduce the risk of problems.
An example of such an ability was demonstrated when McNair worked at the University of Maryland. A problem had presented itself where unauthorized individuals were coming onto the campus. To try to prevent this, McNair created an external camera system to aid patrol officers.
"The cameras were placed in strategic places in parking lots," McNair said, "and this worked extremely well."
Campus police made two successful arrests using the new system, one of which was an armed robbery that was seen by the camera monitor, which alerted police and led them straight to the robber.
He admits that while the use of technology "does not eliminate crime, but it supplements control."
McNair is also taking measures to address the concern of safety and security on AU's campus, in order to prevent incidents like last semester's unwanted sexual advances on five women on campus. "In order to have a holistic approach, rather than a quick fix, we are increasing patrols, looking at technological services that can help and trying to have a more positive interaction between officers and students," McNair said.
Public Safety will provide escorts and has already changed the shuttle route so that it stops in front of the North side residence halls instead of the Ward Circle Building, to ensure student safety, according to McNair. "I believe it is important to maintain a feeling of security for everyone in the AU community," McNair said.
McNair met with officers in conducting security surveys for the faculty in order to find out what conditions they needed to feel safe but it was harder to make students feel safe under the same approach. McNair's progress has not gone unnoticed.
"He has done very good things since he has been here, and I think we will continue to see greater efficiency from him," said Dwight Allen, manager of police services.
Allen also complimented McNair on improving interdepartmental relations.
"He has made patrol changes, as well as changes to the lines of communication, which enhances the way we pass information," Allen said.
In the next two weeks, students can look forward to a map saying "Meet the Chief" that McNair will be putting up in Mary Graydon Center, which will allow students to thumbtack specific locations on campus where they feel unsafe so that Public Safety can change this.
Also, there is the possibility of a proposal to the administration about future work-study positions allowing students to work for public safety as an auxiliary team, something that has worked well at the University of Maryland, among other universities.
As for what he hopes to accomplish as director, McNair is optimistic in his challenge to make all students feel secure and trust the all around heighten safety on campus.
"I want everyone at the end of the year to say 'I feel safe because public safety has done things to make me feel safe,'" McNair said. "If students don't feel safe they won't have a successful semester, so we need to deal with the safety of both perception and reality, make them congruent and solve the issues"