The Lehigh University Police Department moved from Johnson Hall to the new building on East Packer Avenue on Monday.
The department moved after outgrowing its previous space in Johnson Hall and moving several of its operations to other parts of campus, such as an impound lot that was located on Goodman Campus. All of the police equipment will now be located in the new building across from Zoellner Arts Center.
While the station was moved because of the lack of space, Chief of Police Edward Shupp said the new location is more convenient because it is at the boundary between on and off campus. He said this will put officers in a more convenient positions to help students who live both on and off campus.
“A third of our students live off campus,” Shupp said. “So now we are on campus, but bordering off campus. We’re covering more of our entire student population, so I think it gives a better service to everybody.”
The new location is also expected to help improve relations with Bethlehem residents because the new station will be more accessible to them as well.
The station is located where Windish Hall was until it demolished in August, and the police station was built in less than a year.
Shupp attributed the speed of the construction to the quality of the team running the project. Erin Liston, the project manager of the police station, said pressure from Lehigh’s trustees and good building conditions led to the rapid turnover for the station.
“We just put together a good design team that knew what we were targeting for a completion date, and we worked hard with the team we put together,” Liston said.
The campus architect position was vacant during the construction, and Yasmin Bugaighis, the director of project management, said the position vacancy did not hinder the building progress because Lehigh contracts outside architects to plan the construction of building.
“The position of university architect is tasked with the overall aesthetics of the university,” Bugaighis said. “Lehigh’s project manager was more than capable of managing the overall construction and successful delivery of the project.”
With the new building comes better wiring and technology to improve the police’s capability to run cameras and radios. The new building also contains holding cells — a feature the previous building had as well.
“We’ve had them here since 1977,” Shupp said. “It’s nothing new. It’s been here for the last 40 years.”
Shupp said the cells are necessary to detain people who commit more serious crimes and provide a safe environment for people who may be experiencing mental issues.
“We hope that our community is smarter and does not get into the more serious trouble where it is needed on a consistent basis,” Shupp said.
Lehigh worked with the City of Bethlehem and the Bethlehem Police Department to construct the station. Lehigh did not work with a student committee to work on the renovations, but several students did work with the building for projects in architecture and construction management.
“How can a student tell us what we need inside a police station?” Shupp said. “We have everything now: a secure armory, secure evidence area. Everything is housed under one roof, locations where we can process more evidence and things like that. It’s state of the art.”
There are no plans to fill the space left empty by the department in Johnson Hall. Bugaighis said the university will consider several options for best filling the space and conduct a feasibility study to decide what will go in the first floor of Johnson Hall.
As of now the station is fully operational. Students should report to the new building instead of Johnson Hall if they need assistance from the police.
“It doesn’t affect our operations, it just enhances them,” Shupp said. “Hopefully we’ll continue to see a decrease in crime by having the station in the area where it’s at both on campus and off campus.”