Case Western Increases Security with Step-Up of Police Force

There soon will be twice as many police patrolling the Case Western Reserve University campus.

The university is converting most of its 24-person unarmed security service into a full campus police force that carries guns and has full arrest powers.

The 15 Case officers - three patrolling on average at all times - will join the 15 patrol officers of the University Circle Police Department who cover the campus, University Hospitals and museums near campus. Cleveland police also serve the area.

John Wheeler, Case's vice president for Cleveland and regional affairs, said officials want a full police force to cover the expanding campus and to keep pace with similar schools across the country.

"This is sort of seen as the best practice now for urban universities," he said. "You need armed police, not so much to respond to calls but as a presence."

The university has new dormitories at its eastern edge on East 115th Street and plans additional expansion at the old site of Mt. Sinai Hospital.

University Circle Inc. President Chris Ronayne said the area "regrettably" has some crime like any urban neighborhood - including a robbery at gunpoint and a rape in the last several weeks - but the crime rate has been steady the last 10 years. "We've been able to keep a lid on crime," he said.

Cleveland police statistics for last year show the campus and surrounding area have a lower crime rate than adjacent neighborhoods and the city average.

University Circle Inc. spends about $2.3 million a year for its 26-person police force. Each of the institutions in the neighborhood contributes annually, with Case covering about half and University Hospitals about a quarter of the costs.

Wheeler said the university will continue to contribute about $1.1 million a year. Case currently spends another $2 million on its security force and will spend about $400,000 more on the police force.

Over the last several months, Case and University Circle Inc. discussed expanding the University Circle force or having Case take over patrols for the whole area. But Case officials want the police to still patrol inside campus buildings, and the other partners in University Circle Inc. thought that would dilute security in the rest of the area.

Keeping the two bodies separate satisfies all parties, Ronayne said.

Wheeler said Case has started sending the security guards for training to become police officers but expects only a few to be full police by fall.

Case and University Circle Inc. also will study ways to combine dispatching, vehicle maintenance and purchasing to save money.

Plain Dealer reporter Gabriel Baird contributed to this story.