President John Simon posted a picture on his Instagram page of Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez, Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DeLuzio and Lehigh University Police Chief Jason Schiffer cutting the ribbon to open a police substation on New Street on March 26.
The substation —located at 324 S. New St., in the same facility as the new parking garage— represents a new collaboration between LUPD and BPD.
Though LUPD already has a substation on Morton Street, the New Street substation is one where BPD and LUPD will work together.
LUPD officer C.R. Stokes said Lehigh and Bethlehem wanted to bring together officers from both forces, especially because Lehigh occupies the fourth and fifth floors next door at the Gateway Building at Greenway Park.
Stokes said the station is responsible for covering the area from Sands Casino to around Wyandotte Street, including parts of Lehigh’s campus like Packer Avenue.
The officers patrol the area on bikes or by foot, talk to the local businesses and make sure people feel safe.
“That’s our primary goal,” Stokes said. “To be seen by the public.”
Stokes said the greater officer presence there is, the less crime occurs. He said he has seen a difference in the community since January when LUPD and BPD started working together.
Stokes also said businesses have been more satisfied with the safety in the area and have seen a decrease in quality of life issues that would affect customers’ experience. He said there have also been fewer people sleeping or loitering on the Greenway.
Nora Hendrycks, an instructor at Barreform, a fitness studio on Fourth Street, said she feels safer with more patrol in the area and less hesitant when walking around at night.
“It gives people that sense of comfort,” Hendrycks said.
Stokes said he’s glad to see LUPD and BPD working together like they did in the past when a South Side community policing unit existed.
In addition to keeping people safe on the South Side, LUPD is working to teach students and faculty what to do in an active shooter situation.
Although LUPD has hosted active shooter training sessions for a number of years, officer Christopher Houtz said there’s always an increase in requests for training sessions following incidents like the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
The training is free and offered to groups of students and staff, who can sign up through LUPD’s website.
Five officers are certified to lead these trainings, which Houtz said last an hour and involves an introduction, 20-minute video and a discussion of what is done on Lehigh’s campus in the case of an active shooter. At the end, group members can ask questions, which Houtz said is the most important part of the training.
During the campus discussion, prevention strategies are explored. One method is to not immediately run out to the police during an active shooter situation.
The officers also display the equipment they would use and wear in such a scenario, which allows the group to understand the officers’ perspectives.
In addition to the training sessions, LUPD also receives regular training using airsoft equipment. Houtz said officers are debriefed on previous incidents and are able to devise ways to prevent them from happening at Lehigh.
Madison Gianelle, ’20, said she’s glad LUPD has this kind of training. Gianelle is from northern Philadelphia and said she feels safer at Lehigh than at home.
She said she likes that the training is offered to student groups because they should have the tools to be proactive in an active shooter situation.