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Staying Safe on Campus with Kaz Trypuc

Photo courtesy of Katie Morris.

Of the employees who work for Point Loma Nazarene University’s Department of Public Safety (Pub Safe), many have previously served in first responder roles, including positions at the San Diego Police Department, San Diego Fire Department, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Chicago Police Department and Julian Cuyamaca Fire Protection District.

Kaz Trypuc is an assistant director for Pub Safe, which oversees the university’s security, establishes emergency preparedness measures, manages parking and provides select campus services.

Trypuc, who has been with Pub Safe for 17 years, works alongside the director, two other assistant directors, 19 full-time, uniformed officers and around 20 part-time student employees in the department. 

As the 2023-24 academic calendar begins, The Point caught up with Trypuc to discuss Pub Safe’s role on campus, how students can stay safe and the misconceptions that some individuals may have about the department.

The Point: What kind of on-campus support and safety services are available for students?

Kaz Trypuc: I’ll give you kind of a broader overview. [Pub Safe] operates in four areas; one is kind of just general security-type work. We make sure the campus is safe. We respond to incidents, whether those crimes are in progress or suspicious persons or locking and unlocking buildings, just as you would expect a security guard anywhere to do.

We also are responsible for the campus’ emergency preparedness. [Director of Public Safety Mark Ryan] works with university leadership on the university’s emergency planning. We maintain the Emergency Operations Center in the lower level of our building and a state of readiness so that it can be used in a campus-wide emergency. We manage the emergency alert system [and] we plan the emergency drills that we do each year.

The third thing is we manage parking. Other universities and colleges … might have an entire department that just runs parking permits and parking enforcement. [Pub Safe] is doing all of this. 

The fourth area where we operate … is really that campus services piece. That includes unlocks [for] vehicles and rooms, first aid, jump starts, escorts, traffic control for special events and extra security for special events. Whether it’s a student, staff member, faculty member or a university department, that’s where we come in to provide this extra support and help for those needs that come up.

TP: How does Pub Safe communicate with students in an emergency?

KT: If somebody sees something that’s an emergency, whether [it’s] a fire, they’re a victim of a crime or they see something suspicious, call Public Safety [at] (619) 849-2525. If it’s obviously an emergency that’s gonna need true first responders — police, fire or EMS — people also should just call 911 directly and then have a friend call Public Safety to let us know what’s happening so we can also respond or make us aware that we’re going to be expecting fire, law enforcement, etc., and help them get to the campus location.

[First responders] may not be familiar with the campus if it’s an isolated emergency affecting one [area]. If it’s a campus-wide emergency, people should report that to Public Safety and we’re gonna turn around [and] potentially notify the entire campus.

As for the emergency alert system, the main way we’re going to communicate to students and employees in an emergency is through the use of text messaging. All employees and all students are automatically enrolled in that system using the mobile phone number that [they] have provided themselves through Workday.

TP: How are violations of the Community Living Agreement handled with Public Safety in particular?

KT: Yeah, actually, we don’t have any real role in that, to be honest. I think that’s a bit of a misconception. We provide support to Residential Life (ResLife). We might relay to them what we are observing out in the field and refer that to them, but [in terms of] actually handling the [Community Living Agreement] expectations … Public Safety is probably most often, I wouldn’t say involved in, [but] … people most commonly associate Public Safety within residence halls [when there] are incidents involving drugs, alcohol, room searches and that sort of thing. But in almost every case we’re being asked by [ResLife] to step in simply to conduct the search or gather items that might be involved in a violation of university policy. But [ResLife is] going to handle the follow-up, the discipline and whatever sanctions might follow that violation. We’re just kind of coming in at their request to execute the search.

There might be instances where we observe a student who arrives back on campus and [is] showing signs of intoxication. They might be in the backseat of an Uber or something, for example. Out of care for that student, we’re going to stop and evaluate them because we want to make sure they’re okay. 

I certainly don’t want us just watching people go by, [who look] like they might be borderline unconscious and not do anything about that. And so, we notify ResLife in those instances, as we do with any student who’s suffering any kind of medical emergency or type of concern whatsoever because we want ResLife to be able to provide resources and support for whatever that situation involves. 

In those instances, we might be the first point of contact, but we very quickly are trying to turn it over to [ResLife] to handle that as they see fit. And if there is … [a] growth plan and all that stuff, that’s really ResLife’s area of expertise.

And [for possibly intoxicated] students, we work very closely with [ResLife] in those situations to provide an assessment of somebody about whether or not they might need emergency medical services based on their level of intoxication.

We may confiscate illegal drugs and then turn those over to the police, that sort of thing. And no one’s ever asked this, but when we surrender narcotics to law enforcement, we don’t disclose any information about where they came from or who they belong to. We call the San Diego Police Department’s non-emergency number, which is used for reporting all kinds of activity to the police, and explain that narcotics were found on campus.

Essentially, just as if you were in a public park and you found something on the ground, you just turn it over to law enforcement and they take it and destroy it. So, we’re not there to get students in trouble. We’re not acting on behalf of law enforcement or anything like that. So hopefully that clears up a little bit. 

I’m always a little reluctant to overplay the room search piece because I know that’s one that people tend to key in on, right? Because it feels like a big deal at that moment for some students, [and] it can be, but that’s really just such a small portion of the work that we’re doing. When we’re working with Reslife, it’s more often on medical calls, student welfare checks and things like that.

TP: Thank you for clarifying. That brings up a separate question: [What are the] areas of misconception [about Pub Safe] that you think might be common among the student body? Just to help debunk that for this incoming class because there’s a lot of stigma around [Pub Safe].

KT: Yeah, you know, it’s hard to kind of maybe distill this into a simple quote. So I’ll just kind of tell you how I explain this to some people. Some students, for example, will only ever come into contact with Public Safety because they might get a parking ticket. So, that might be a negative experience with our department for them; they don’t like the fact that they got a parking ticket, and there’s a fine involved. I understand that can be frustrating and that might be their only perception of us because that’s the only time they’ve ever interacted with us.

We do have rules and there are consequences on this campus, and we need to maintain an orderly parking environment. And to the extent we work with Residential Life on some of these personal conduct issues too, there are reasons for those policies and we’re trying to, you know, maintain a good quality living, working and learning environment here. 

But I want people to see the bigger picture and know that we really, truly are here to help. Nobody [at Pub Safe] gets up in the morning and comes to work because they get excited about writing parking tickets or finding students in violation of personal conduct policies.

Some people think [Pub Safe] might be really keyed in on those things and we’re not. We have people here who are former firefighters. We have people who have children enrolled here. We have alumni who work here. 

The people who work at Public Safety, by large, care very deeply about this place and about the students. We get very excited about new student orientation because it’s a time to welcome, this year, 850 new students and their families and to launch their college careers. And we get really excited about commencement because it says, you know, all that work that we have done, and many other departments, for four years, has paid off. Look at these students reaching the finish line. We take a tremendous sense of pride in playing one small part in helping our students be successful. 

I don’t want students to think of us as having an adversarial relationship with our students. Apart from that, we want to be really helpful. Sometimes that means we have to put a parking citation on their car that’s parked where it shouldn’t be, but for the most part, the thing that really motivates our work is helping our students be successful, safe and able to focus on having fun and having an excellent four-year career. 

TP: What sexual assault education and prevention programs are offered at PLNU, and what is the protocol for reporting sexual harassment?

KT: So Title IX really takes the lead on that, [which includes Title IX Coordinator] Danielle Friberg, [who] works closely also with HR on the mandatory educational pieces. Personally, I’ve been very impressed with what she’s been able to roll out.

Public Safety doesn’t take too much of an official role in that. We are certainly a designated office where someone can come and report a crime, [so] if somebody were to come in and inform our office that they were the victim of a sexual assault, or stalking or domestic violence, for example, we would get some initial information from that individual and find out what’s going on and whether or not it actually fits in one of those definitions. But whether it does or doesn’t, if it’s close, we make a timely notification to the Title IX office so that Danielle and her team can follow up as appropriate. She really kind of takes it from there, and works closely with the dean of students [and] when necessary, the associate vice president for human resources. 

We’re not really doing a lot of the front-facing educational piece with students. And we don’t have a lot of responsibility on the back end. But we’re here 24 hours a day, so if someone comes in, we’ll get that initial information, and we’ll resource them out to the best people.

TP: What should students know about parking registration, rules and violations?

KT: If you’re not sure where to park, ask. That’s probably the best piece of advice I can give you. Obviously, people can read the university Vehicle Code and read the rules line by line. I don’t suspect many people do that.

Generally speaking though, we essentially have two prototypes: A permits and B permits. A permits belong to commuter students, employees and faculty. That group is allowed to park … around the heart of campus during daytime business hours. They can also park in the parking structure outside Bond Academic Center.

During the daytime, our residential students who qualify for B permits kind of just need to stay on the edges of campus, so they’re not just driving up to class. [On] nights, weekends and holidays, [parking] is kind of first come first serve. Commuter students often get confused about where they can park even though they can pretty much park everywhere. Same with employees.

One exception where we want to make sure [PLNU students, faculty and staff] are not parking is the [San Diego First Church of the Nazarene]. There’s a big common misconception that the church parking lot and the church itself are PLNU property, and they’re not; the church owns that building and parking lot. They let us use the spaces in the back for some overflow parking because they don’t need all of those spaces every day. But really, they do that graciously. We’re not entitled to those spaces. Our agreement with them is that we will make sure that no one with a PLNU parking permit is parking on [their] side of the bollards.