Public Safety: Get to Know your Community Caretakers

Tags: community service health support

The Department of Public Safety (DPS). Usually the first thing new students and their parents ask me is if the campus is safe? However, you may also be curious about what we do, who we are and the reason we are important to you once you arrive on campus. Although I want to tell you all about our dedicated professional staff of University police officers, security officers, dispatchers and fire officials you can read about us on our website. You can also learn about our Community Caretaking mission and philosophy.

Even though we have a very safe campus, I think it’s important for me to take a few minutes of your time to share safety and security information you should know before arriving at Princeton. My hope is that by taking some time to read this post, when you arrive on campus you’ll be familiar with the resources available through DPS (also referred to as P-SAFE) and some of our campus partners.

Even in safe communities, like Princeton University, it’s important to have good daily crime prevention practices – register your bike and laptop, lock your bike up whenever it’s parked and never leave your personal property unattended, especially in the Campus Center (Frist), library or gym, always carry your Princeton University Tiger Identification Card (PUid) with you, and lock your door at all times, especially at night while you are sleeping. Additionally, you should never disable your dorm room lock (i.e. tape it) because it is a violation of the State fire code and University fire safety policy. Disabling your door lock will result in a Housing fine.

These may seem like common sense practices, but they can be very helpful in keeping you and your roommates, as well as your valuable possessions safe. You can find additional helpful tips on our website. To learn more about the types of crime that have occurred on campus read our annual Security and Fire Safety Report or the daily incident logs I encourage you to visit our website.

As a Princeton student you are regarded as an adult! Your parents aren’t going to be called unless something serious occurs. If you need medical assistance, we will get you to University Health Services (UHS) located in McCosh Health Center - or as some students say - you’ll be “McCoshed.” The professional staff at UHS has a wealth of experience in looking after the campus community. If a student is found intoxicated, our primary concern is the welfare of that individual and to that end, there is no University discipline for being intoxicated. As a member of the community we expect you to cooperate with our officers, including showing us your ID if we ask. We also expect that if you see someone who needs help that you’ll by a bystander and call PSAFE at 609-258-3333. “See Something. Say Something.” As a community we encourage you to always look out for one another. For more information about campus rules including those for drugs and alcohol refer to the University’s Rights, Rules and Responsibilities (RRR).

If you go off campus into the town of Princeton, our colleagues in the Princeton Police Department (PPD) will be the police department responding in the occasional instance should something occur. PPD responds to parties at the eating clubs on Prospect Street aka “the Street”, using fake identification or trying to buy alcohol at one of the town liquor stores. If you are underage, please don’t try to use a fake ID to attempt to buy alcohol. Unfortunately, every year a few students get arrested by the local police, for doing just that.

Based on my experience, one of the best things you can do to reassure your family, who will inevitably worry about you, is to set up a plan to talk to them periodically. Before coming to Princeton, sit down with your family and plan a regular touch-base. This could be in the form of a weekly phone call, regular e-mail, Face Time session or Facebook update. This touch-base is an opportunity to let them know you are doing fine. If you don’t have regular contact with your family they sometimes contact us (or one of the deans) and we send an officer to your room to ask you to call home (aka a Welfare Check). Your parents will worry about you if they don’t hear from you so please help us by staying in regular contact with your family. This includes semester breaks and weekends.

University Emergency Preparedness information is also important for you to know – particularly when there is an issue. We use a system called PTENS (Princeton Telephone and E-mail Notification System) when there are significant campus emergencies. We will also let you know information that affects your health or safety through our campus safety alerts. It is vital for every member of the community to register their cell phone so that we can let you know if there is a serious situation on campus and what to do. Please take a moment to register your phone on TigerHub the online student portal where you can maintain personal information as well as plan and enroll in courses.

Through the new PTENS web portal, individuals may select which non-emergency messages they would like to receive and the way they want to receive them. Non-emergency messages include:

  • delayed openings, closings and early dismissals due to weather events
  • forecasts for severe weather that may impact the campus
  • traffic alerts

For non-emergency messages, the portal allows users to control the delivery method.

You may also find information about delayed opening, closings and early dismissals on the University homepage and by calling the SNOW line, 258-SNOW.

You must be a member of the University community to use the PTENS user portal. You will need your University ID number, found on your University ID card, to set your preferences.

Please follow the instructions found here. If you have questions or difficulty setting your preferences, please email for assistance.

My hope is that these tips are helpful in getting you to think about your safety while at Princeton. Our PSAFE officers are here as a resource. Don’t hesitate to call us. Emergency: 9-1-1 on campus or (609) 258-3333 off campus or cell phones, Non-emergencies (609) 258-1000. Be safe, call P-SAFE!

Finally, all of the DPS staff look forward to meeting with you during orientation – welcome to Princeton!

Author Profile

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Paul L. Ominsky
Executive Director, Department of Public Safety (DPS)

Paul’s career in campus safety spans more than 30 years. With undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Paul’s experience draws from a career spent on five university and college campuses. Paul formerly served as Director of Public Safety at Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and Hampshire College.

Since coming to Princeton in January 2010 Paul has been focusing on the department’s “Community Caretaking” and service mission as well as the role accreditation plays in becoming a world-class Public Safety Department.

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is a dynamic organization of 102 staff that supports many critical functions across the Princeton University Campus, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There are 31 sworn officers including 3 officers in our detective bureau and 49 non-sworn officers that provide support services, staff our Communication Center, provide library security, art museum security and patrol campus.

Paul’s best description of any officer, particularly a campus officer, is a “helper”. He says that in many respects, officers are the community safety net – the front line when things don’t go well – at 2:00pm or 2:00am. As a safety net, DPS is here to help and form lasting partnerships.

If you have questions for Paul, please e-mail him at: or call: 609-258-5772.

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