Episode 31: NYU Community Response and Investigations Units
Sergeant First Class Brian Doss from the Community Response Unit and Sergeants Gizelle Sanchez and Dan Gitter from the Investigations Unit visit with Karen and Sabah to explain the services they provide and how their teams enhance the safety of the NYU community.
Intro Voices [00:00:05] Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Intro Voices [00:00:31] This is “You Matter”, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman [00:00:37] Hi, everyone, and welcome back to “You Matter”, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your co-host, Karen Ortman, Assistant Vice President of Field Operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcement professional.
Sabah Fatima [00:00:59] And I am Sabah Fatima, a pre-med graduate student here at NYU’s College of Global Public Health. If any information presented today is triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999.
Karen Ortman [00:01:14] Today we introduce NYU’s Department of Public Safety’s own Sergeant Gizelle Sanchez and Sergeant Dan Gitter of Investigative Services, as well as Sergeant First Class Brian Doss of the Community Response Unit. Welcome to all of you.
Sabah Fatima [00:01:30] Welcome, thank you.
Karen Ortman [00:01:33] So, Sergeants Sanchez and Gitter. What is Investigative Services and what purpose does it serve for the NYU community?
Sergeant Sanchez [00:01:43] So Investigative Services is a unit within the Field Operations division of Public Safety, which investigates any crime or policy violation reported by an NYU community member. Typically, these reports are generally initiated by a complainant calling our communication center, which can be reached by calling
212-998-2222. You can walk into the field operations headquarters, which is located at 561 LaGuardia, or reporting to any front desk officer or officer walking on patrol, or through the safe NYU app. A uniformed officer will take your initial report which is entered into our records management system. All reports are then reviewed by Investigative Services. It'll be assigned to an investigator in the unit who will reach out to the respective victim or complainant within one to two days. Generally we reach out via email. Crimes or violations we investigate can range anywhere from larceny, thefts, harassment, criminal trespass, assault, scams or graffiti and vandalism.
Karen Ortman [00:02:49] So a question for you. How often do you work with outside law enforcement agencies such as the NYPD or any law enforcement agency? Because our students might come to NYU and be from the West Coast and perhaps they're going to report to you that something of a criminal nature occurred in California. Correct? I mean, I'm sure that that happens. So you must be able to establish relationships not only within New York, but beyond. So how does that work?
Sergeant Sanchez [00:03:28] So we do work with NYPD and other law enforcement entities pretty much daily. Mostly in regards to anything that happens in New York, if it's reported to the NYPD, we follow up with them daily regarding our complainant’s crimes, usually larceny, thefts or harassment. In the case where we have to reach out to entities outside of New York, you know, we do that as well. We also help with students who are located outside in our global sites. We look up some victim services assistance in those respective areas in the global sites.
Karen Ortman [00:04:12] OK, so tell us a little bit about victim services.
Sergeant Gitter [00:04:17] All right. So, you know, working in this role, in investigations there’s that dual role also as a member of the victim services unit. Naturally, it goes hand in hand.
Karen Ortman [00:04:28] And you’re Sergeant Gitter.
Sergeant Gitter [00:04:29] Yes, sorry. When someone reports a crime, it's because they're a victim themselves. Correct. So as a member of the victim services unit, we can speak to you about internal and external resources available to you, internal resources for NYU would include NYU Wellness Exchange, sometimes the Title IX Office, depending on the situation, and externally would include New York City Crime Victim Treatment Center, Sanctuary for Families and New York City Family Justice Center, all of which been spoken about previously on this podcast. We can also help facilitate the filing of a report with the NYPD, as Sergeant Sanchez was talking about. We have a good relationship with them, the ones located closest to Washington Square campus, 5th Precinct. Sorry. Yeah. Fifth, sixth, ninth, 13th. And then in Brooklyn, 84th precinct.
Karen Ortman [00:05:26] Sergeant Gitter, how do victims contact you? Let's say it's a weekend or the early morning hours. How might one who needs the services of the victim services unit be in touch?
Sergeant Gitter [00:05:43] Yes. So there's always a victim services member who is on call. You simply have to call 212-992-8600. Also, you can call the main NYU Communication Center phone number, 212-998-2222, and then ask to speak to the on call victim services team member.
Sabah Fatima [00:06:05] Sergeant Doss, can you share with our listeners the purpose of the Community Response Unit, also known as CRU, and for how long the unit has been operational?
Sergeant Doss [00:06:14] Sure. So the Department of Public Safety’s Community Response Unit was created in February of 2018. And our goal is to build and strengthen the relationships between the members of the NYU community, our students, faculty and staff, and the Department of Public Safety. CRU is responsible for leading crime prevention and community engagement initiatives. Also enhancing the response to calls for services and critical incidents. And also providing operational support to investigative services, as well as our public safety officers in the field.
Sabah Fatima [00:06:47] Who makes the membership of CRU?
Sergeant Doss [00:06:49] So we currently have four sergeants within the unit and we hold the title of Sergeant First Class.
Sabah Fatima [00:06:55] Can you speak to your role in CRU and how CRU is able to serve such a high volume population that includes students, faculty and staff?
Sergeant Doss [00:07:05] Sure. So there are 21 residence halls which are divided up within the unit. So each Sergeant First Class has a grouping of residence halls that they're responsible for that or we're responsible for. And we'd like to say that we are the point of contact for the residence hall staff for those residence hall programming. We're always talking about programming, we're always discussing what type of programs would be beneficial to our students and to the NYU community. And over the past year and a half or so, we've really developed some strong programs relating to campus safety, theft prevention. And these are programs that are implemented in our residence halls and our academic buildings. We work rotating schedules so there is gonna be a Sergeant First Class that is working pretty much all the time, schedule permitting. And through our time as a unit, we've really built strong relationships with our residence hall staff and with our academic buildings as well. So it's something that we're very proud of.
Sabah Fatima [00:08:13] Amazing. What are some effective programs that have been implemented?
Sergeant Doss [00:08:16] So we have a safety in the city program that we put on to our students. We have an NYPD sponsored program called Operation I.D., which has been very successful. That's a property protection program for electronic devices. We also put on a program last year called Chew with CRU. It's kind of like an informal food-based program where the students could come up and talk to us about safety related problems.
Sabah Fatima [00:08:46] That’s fun.
Sergeant Doss [00:08:47] Yeah, it’s a very good program. And it was well-received. We also have theft prevention tables that we put on in our academic buildings this past semester. We partnered up with Safe Horizons and we had a program for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Our Lock Your Door campaign that we had last year in our residence halls. So we were always looking for those, as I mentioned before, those programs that that are going to be beneficial to to the NYU community.
Sabah Fatima [00:09:20] That's great.
Karen Ortman [00:09:22] Of all the programs that you mentioned, can you share with our listeners how they might get information about having those same presentations in their residence halls if that has not yet happened and how our listeners can get more information about the services that you provide to the community here at NYU?
Sergeant Doss [00:09:41] Sure. If we haven't given a specific or held a specific event in your residence hall, you can speak to your residence hall staff. As I mentioned before, we'd like to say that we are the point of contact for the RHDs and the RHADs and the RAs of the residence halls. So you can always go to your residence hall staff and request a program. We also have a website that you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so you can send an email that will come to, you know, our CRU-specific email address and you can request programming that way.
Karen Ortman [00:10:20] Perfect. Okay. So how does CRU intersect with investigations?
Sergeant Doss [00:10:27] So we intersect with investigations through providing follow-up through the reports that we're taking. We provide initial intakes after a report is written. So if Sergeant Gitter or Sergeant Sanchez receives a report and they need further follow up on it, they'll reach out to one of the CRU sergeants. We will reach out to the victim of that report and we'll schedule a time to sit down and meet with them pretty much to gain additional information based on the initial report that was taken.
Karen Ortman [00:11:01] And do you in your capacity with CRU as well as the other sergeants first class that make up CRU and how many are there in total?
Sergeant Doss [00:11:12] Right now, we have four sergeants within the unit.
Karen Ortman [00:11:14] And soon to be five.
Sergeant Doss [00:11:15] Soon to be five. Yes.
Karen Ortman [00:11:17] Okay. Are all of you considered part of victim services as well?
Sergeant Doss [00:11:22] We are, yes. We work closely with the investigative services unit. And again, as things are scheduled and sent out to our unit, we provide follow up for those services.
Sabah Fatima [00:11:34] Sergeant Gitter, what does a typical day look like to you?
Sergeant Gitter [00:11:39] So there is no typical day, but there are things that remain constant, that we come in, Sergeant Sanchez will review all the cases that came in from the day before or if it's a Monday from the weekend prior. And then she'll assign it either to myself or her or, like Sergeant First Class Doss mentioned, one of the members of CRU. And then we'll do outreach or reach out to the victims, see if they're interested in meeting, kind of evaluate how we would go about the investigation, if there's cameras in the area, witnesses, and then kind of react appropriately. You know, there's things throughout the day that come up that are a little bit more urgent where it's all hands on deck and we really need to focus. And it's not something that came the day before, but because it's urgent, we need to act immediately. So it's really and that's something I enjoy every day. It's because it's always, every day is a little bit different. And it kind of stimulates your mind. And, you know, it's good because you get to help a lot of different people throughout it.
Karen Ortman [00:12:45] And let me just ask for clarification purposes. NYU Department of Public Safety is a non-sworn department, correct?
Sergeant Gitter [00:12:53] Correct.
Sabah Fatima [00:12:54] Thanks, Sergeant Gitter. What does a typical day look like for you, Sergeant Sanchez?
Sergeant Sanchez [00:12:58] So my typical day starts off with looking at all the reports that came in, just like Sergeant Gitter said, that came in the day before or over the weekend. I assign them based on whether or not there's a NYU policy violation or some
sort of criminal activity has occurred. Those reports are then assigned to either myself, Dan, or the members of the GRU, and after that we all conduct outreach via email, typically. If there is no email that we can send to, we usually give the person a call. We like to do it through email because it creates a paper trail for us so that we know that we have reached out to them. After that, we typically schedule appointments with the victims and/or complainants. If there are witnesses, we meet with the witnesses as well. If the report is reported to the NYPD, our interaction with the victims and witnesses are really more of the victim services centered, meaning that we help out with the NYPD in following up. We'll do as much investigating as there is, to do a video review if we have anything. But we won't be so much involved in the investigation as we don't want to obstruct the NYPD investigation. So that's pretty much my day. And just like Sergeant Gitter said, our day to day, there's things that normally happen. But sometimes there's one or two cases that'll come in that we just have to jump on in and be ready at any moment.
Sabah Fatima [00:14:48] Amazing. What about you, Sergeant First Class Doss?
Sergeant Doss [00:14:51] So if we have a typical day, the Sergeant will come in first thing in the morning and we'll review reports that were taken from the previous shifts. We go out and we provide directed patrols throughout the campus as well. If we have a meeting or if we have a program scheduled, we'll go out and we'll provide that programming to the NYU community. But there's always things that come up during the shift. We may get a call that a Sergeant First Class needs to respond to which will, you know, change everything for the day. We work closely with investigative services, we may have an intake scheduled. We also may be bringing a victim to the NYPD. So there's a number of different things that can happen throughout the day, whether they're scheduled or they're not. But we're always ready to respond to those issues.
Sabah Fatima [00:15:42] What steps can students take that would make them less likely to be victims of property crime like stolen laptops and other personal property being stolen?
Sergeant Gitter [00:15:55] So I'm sure Sergeant First Class Doss will touch upon it as well, but I think the big thing is not leaving property unattended. A lot of these crimes are crimes of opportunity. So something is left unattended and someone who might not normally go to steal something, sees it and sees the opportunity to, you know, either take a backpack or cell phone, laptop, and then kind of takes it and then leaves. A big one, too, is bike crimes around the area, bike thefts, a lot of people commute to NYU on bike, there’s external bike racks, some that are provided by NYU, others that are, you know, New York City. And all it takes is a tool to clip the lock and then ride off with it. So we usually do suggest doing a dual locking system, which is actually on the CRU website, on the NYU.edu website.
Sergeant Doss [00:16:53] And Dan is correct. Crime of opportunities, they do happen and they happen very quickly. And the unit puts on specific programming related to theft prevention. We try to get across to the students to please safeguard your property wherever you are, whether it's in an academic building, whether, you know, we had the Lock Your Door campaign in the residence halls because unfortunately, incidents do happen around campus. So, again, you know, one of the big things that we like to speak about to our students, to our faculty and staff is to safeguard your property.
Sabah Fatima [00:17:32] I've been guilty of leaving things unattended.
Karen Ortman [00:17:34] But you're not doing that anymore.
Sabah Fatima [00:17:36] No, absolutely not. I think getting a locker at Bobst helped tremendously.
Karen Ortman [00:17:42] I'm glad you did that.
Sabah Fatima [00:17:45] Thank you. Sergeant First Class Doss, what value does CRU bring to NYU that is different from other services provided by the Department of Public Safety?
Sergeant Doss [00:17:53] So I believe that CRU's value is in the relationships that we've built and that we continue to build not only within the university, but external to the university as well. With our relationships that we have built with the NYPD, we've built relationships with the members of the NYU community in whose neighborhood that we live, as well as, as I mentioned, our law enforcement partners who make the safety of our NYU community a priority. Another valuable contribution is the unit's proactive programming and enforcement initiatives that target crime. That is what we are about. We want to get the word out and we want to reduce crime on campus. And, you know, that's through our program.
Sabah Fatima [00:18:40] Thank you. Can you distinguish for our listeners the difference between emergency boxes and green light buildings on campus? And the purpose that each one serves?
Sergeant Doss [00:18:49] Sure. So there are 24 green light buildings throughout NYU and a green light building is going to be a residence hall. All of our residence halls are green light buildings because they're open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and they're staffed by a public safety officer. And they’re recognizable because you will see a green light illuminated posted above the entrance of that building. So if the student is feeling unsafe or just wants to go in to speak to a public safety officer, they can go into a green light building 24/7, 364 days a year. Now, the student can also find a map of our green light buildings that are going to be on NYU.edu.
Sabah Fatima [00:19:36] What about emergency boxes?
Sergeant Doss [00:19:39] Yep. So we have 20 emergency call boxes around campus and they’re identified by having an illuminated blue light above the call box. Once that emergency button is pressed, the student is directed to our communication center over in Brooklyn. It's staffed 24/7, 364 days a year. And once the student presses that emergency button, the blue light that's already lit will strobe in the area. So it'll light up the area. And in our dispatch center, we'll get an alert over in the communication center. Again, all the maps of the call boxes, you can find them on NYU.edu. But it's just another safety tool that our NYU community can use if they need assistance from public safety.
Karen Ortman [00:20:27] How are you able to measure the impact of the efforts put forth by CRU, by investigative services in providing the services that you do for our community?
Sergeant Doss [00:20:46] So from a CRU perspective, I'd like to say it's through the response that we get from the NYU community. We present programs in academic
buildings, in residence halls. And what we're really looking for is participation. We can also measure our efforts through statistics. We'd like to say that, you know, we're here to reduce crime on campus. So we really like to see a decrease in numbers. We're very proud of our Lock Your Door campaign last year that was a campaign that reduced larcenies in residence halls. So from a CRU perspective, we measure our success in just a number of different ways, you know, participation, feedback as well. So, again, we're always, you know, seeking feedback from the NYU community on how we can better serve our population.
Karen Ortman [00:21:51] Sergeant Sanchez and Sergeant Gitter. So I'll now turn to you about the ways in which you measure the impact of investigative services as well as victim services.
Sergeant Sanchez [00:22:02] So like Sergeant First Class Doss stated, we measure that through the feedback we receive and also, we are held accountable every two weeks when we meet for a CompStat. So CompStat is a meeting between all units within public safety. That includes field operations, investigative services, transportation services, etc. This was initially developed by the NYPD and our Senior Vice President, Marlon Lynch, brought it over to NYU Public Safety. So we meet every two weeks to discuss accountability and to communicate our productivity. We measure that productivity and it keeps us accountable. In addition, we are able to communicate with different departments, with different units within our department, areas in which we need assistance with. And it's a way for the units within the DPS to mitigate any security issues. And I'll let my partner, Daniel Gitter, speak to those issues and how we assist each other.
Sergeant Gitter [00:23:15] Yes, so having that great communication line and working relationship with CRU is very helpful in kind of analyzing, using those statistics on crime patterns and then communicating that to them so that they can focus their directed patrols. They also have a great relationship with the NYPD as we do, but with their NCOs, their neighborhood coordination officers, similar to how public safety has community response unit, the NYPD has sort of the equivalent where they can hear out the complaints and issues that the community has of, you know, New York City and then address them accordingly. If they see an uptick in crime in a certain area, they can have more directed patrols. So if we have possibly non-NYU folk in the area again, NYU is an open campus, we can alert the community response unit and they can touch base with the NCOs and we have worked with them in the past investigations, community response unit and the NCOs to kind of address known non-NYU individuals who were posing an issue or safety concern around the area.
Karen Ortman [00:24:25] So you must work closely and often with your external partners, particularly in law enforcement.
Sergeant Gitter [00:24:33] Yeah, I think that's, again, something I like is that we're dealing a lot with internal NYU, but also external. Right. And it's all for this one idea of creating a safe community, so be it with the NYPD there and NCOs. Within NYPD, each precinct, there is a group I think Sergeant First Class Doss spoke about called Safe Horizons, they’re a nonprofit organization that's in each precinct and they provide victim services similar to what we do. So we kind of work hand-in-hand with them. We worked with them for the Put a Nail In it domestic violence awareness that we had on campus here.
Karen Ortman [00:25:13] What was that? Because I know that was very successful and I think it's worthy of mentioning.
Sergeant Gitter [00:25:17] Yeah. So that's as far as I’m aware a nationwide - what would you call it?
Sergeant Doss [00:25:26] The program itself is a nationwide program in order to get the word out regarding domestic violence awareness. And this was the first year that we held it on campus. It was in October and we had a really good turnout from Safe Horizons as well as the NYPD. We had units from the fifth precinct. We had, you know, the eighty fourth precinct. They had their NCO officers there. We had NYPD community affairs officers there. The LGBTQ plus community was there as well from the NYPD. And I feel that the program was well-received. And what the Safe Horizon's representatives would do is they would paint a nail, a purple nail on the left - is it the left?
Sergeant Gitter [00:26:27] I think it's the ring finger.
Sergeant Doss [00:26:29] Okay, the ring finger of the person. You know, just to spread awareness. And again, we had a very nice turnout. And it's something that we're looking forward to doing in the future as well, you know, because, again, the CRU and investigations, we work closely and we want that valuable program for our community.
Sabah Fatima [00:26:51] I love that interprofessional teamwork, too. And is there anything else that either of you would like to add?
Sergeant Doss [00:27:01] I would just like to say that, you know, as a unit, I feel that CRU provides value to the university, value to the Department of Public Safety. And again, as a unit, we work closely together and our main goal is to provide a safe environment for our students. With over 40,000 students, you know, I feel that it's our responsibility to provide a safe environment. And we really take our job seriously. We provide that point of contact for residence halls. We also provide that contact to our academic partners as well. And we feel that the relationships that we have built within the NYU community as well as the outside NYU community or outside community with the NYPD is just something that's invaluable. And we look forward to growing those relationships and building those relationships just to enhance everything that we do here at NYU.
Sabah Fatima [00:28:06] Thank you.
Sergeant Sanchez [00:28:08] I'd like to add on to what Brian says, in addition to the proactive measures that we'd like you all to take, you know, we understand that sometimes bad things happen and we want to help you out with that. Don't be afraid to report and we'll do whatever we can to help you out and make sure that you get the assistance that you need.
Sabah Fatima [00:28:27] Thank you.
Sergeant Gitter [00:28:29] Just kind of feedback on when Gizelle said, right. The NYU community is who we serve. So if there's any hesitancy to, you know, reach out to us for a question or concern, you know, not to toot our own horn, but we're a great bunch. Right.
And if it's not even related to something that we do, we could definitely try to help you out
and kind of point you in the right direction if it's another department at NYU or, you know, an external resource that would be available to you.
Sergeant Sanchez [00:28:57] And I'd just like to add one more last thing. If there are any NYU community members out there that want to ask any questions or discuss any resources or reporting options available to you, please don't hesitate to reach out. We're here for you.
Sabah Fatima [00:29:15] Thank you to our guests, Sergeant Sanchez, Sergeant First Class Doss and Sergeant Gitter and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of “You Matter”.
Karen Ortman [00:29:28] If any information presented today was triggering and disturbing, please feel free to contact the Wellness Exchange at 212-443-9999. You can also get in touch with NYU’s Department of Public Safety and their Victim Services Unit by calling
Sabah Fatima [00:29:47] Make sure to rate, review and subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify and Google Play.