University of Michigan and Ann Arbor officials canvass student neighborhoods to promote safety
Joe Truzzolino and his roommates were setting up a keg in the front yard of their off-campus rental on Hill Street when they received a surprise visit from the Ann Arbor police chief.
Chief John Seto wasn't there to bust them — Truzzolino is of legal drinking age, after all — but instead welcome them to the neighborhood and hand them a packet filled with information on how to live safely in the neighborhoods surrounding University of Michigan's campus.
"You're on a really busy street," Seto told the Hill Street residents he approached Thursday. "You're on city property, across the street is U-M property, but we work closely together."
Truzzolino said that although the conversation was his first interaction with police this school year, it likely won't be the last time an officer visits his rental.
"I am not going to lie ... Saturday night they might be here," he said. "I hope not, but it always happens."
Joining Seto were U-M Police Chief Joe Piersante; Eddie Washington, executive director of U-M's Division of Public Safety and Security; the school's director of community relations; the dean of students; Ann Arbor City Administrator Steve Powers, City Council Member Sabra Briere and several students.
As part of U-M's Beyond the Diag program, the group canvassed student neighborhoods Thursday to give off-campus residents information on safety, neighborly behavior and U-M events for off-campus students.
The reaction of most students was positive — that is, after they recovered from the initial confusion of having police knock on their doors.
"[Students were] a little surprised to see me until I introduced myself and said I'm here to welcome you, you're not under arrest," Piersante said.
U-M student Brad Murphy, who lives in a large rental house on Hill Street, said he got a "positive vibe" from police. Even so, Murphy said he'll probably see officers later this fall under different circumstances.
"We throw the football pre-games here so it's kind of expected," he said.
U-M and city officials began canvassing neighborhoods three years ago, when the school launched its Beyong the Diag program. Several student "ambassadors" visit off-campus neighborhoods when school begins each year and work to create positive relationships in each neighborhood. Ambassadors work in 12 neighborhoods, including one in North Campus.
"When a student lives in the residence hall the first or second year and moves out of the residence hall and goes into the Greek Community, they are used to us providing the safety because we've got doors that automatically lock and we've got security guards in the residence hall," said U-M Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper. "So what can become an issue for us is when you sort-of move beyond the Diag; when you leave central campus or residence life."
She added: "This transition into living in the neighborhoods was a rocky one. Sometimes the neighbors were unhappy. The students were unhappy. Students would do not-so-wise things like leaving their doors unlocked, their windows up."