President's Report Masthead
September 30, 2014

Binghamton police offer committed student safety

Dan Flanders
Jonathan Cohen

Patrolman Dan Flanders serves as liaison between University and City of Binghamton

A freshman, out for a night of fun downtown with her friends, winds up alone, split from her group – and without a ride. It’s dark and she’s new to town, so she doesn’t know where to go. Binghamton police officer Dan Flanders has seen this happen on numerous occasions, and he does everything in his power to make sure these students find their way safely home.

It’s that kind of care for young people that makes Flanders the right fit for his new position downtown. As part of a one-year pilot program called the Police Partnership Initiative, Flanders serves as a liaison between Binghamton University and the Binghamton Police Department, with specialized duties directly related to off-campus students.

“(Students) are a big group, and they’re becoming part of our community,” Flanders said. “And we want to make sure that they’re being safe and that the environment around them is as safe as we can make it.”

Flanders, a former Marine, is tasked with providing early intervention for emerging problems, assisting residents when problems arise with students and coordinating with University officials to maintain a positive relationship between the Binghamton community and students.

“We view this as a natural evolution of our relationship with the city and its police department,” Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger said. “This adds a little bit of teeth to make sure students are doing the right thing.”

As part of the deal, the city is covering Flanders’ roughly $25,000 in health and retirement benefits, while the University pays his $50,000 salary. The University had been interested in this type of partnership for a while but only recently acquired the funds to make it a reality.

“We sold the University Plaza and we made a profit on that, and we decided that a portion of those monies will go into this program,” Stenger said.

With seven years of experience in the Binghamton Police Department — four of them working downtown — Flanders is familiar with the student population. While patrolling State Street, known for its clubs and bars, he got to know Binghamton students well.

“I like to get to know the students as far as what they’re here for, what they’re majoring in, what they’re taking in school,” Flanders said. “And I feel that, working on State Street, I’ve kind of worked on that rapport, so a lot of the students already know me. I don’t think I was too tough on State Street, so they’re not afraid to come up and say hi.”

Stationed in the University Downtown Center, Flanders will field questions from students, parents and residents via phone, e-mail or in person. For example, students often ask him about the safety of a neighborhood they’re moving to or about specific incidents that happen downtown.
“If students have a concern, they know that I’m right here,” Flanders said. “They can just come in and voice their concerns.”

Flanders encourages moms and dads to reach out as well. He gets a lot of calls from parents who are apprehensive about their children coming to a new city, and he’s there to calm their fears. 

“Parents sending their students away for the first time get a little bit antsy, and they want to know that Binghamton’s a safe place,” Flanders said. “They’ll call me and I talk to them and give them the reassurance that Binghamton can be a safe place.”

Outside of office hours, Flanders will patrol the downtown area and the west side of the city — areas with a high concentration of off-campus students. On Friday and Saturday nights, he’ll be on patrol as late as 3:45 a.m.

“We want to make sure that the students traveling to and from wherever they might be headed are being safe,” Flanders said. “It’s just another eye on the street to make sure that we don’t have someone putting themselves in an unsafe situation.”

Flanders hopes to create an environment where students can have fun, but where order and safety are paramount. If city residents have issues with a student party, for example, he’ll come in and help develop a solution where everyone is satisfied.

A positive relationship between students and residents is a chief concern for Mayor Rich David, especially as more students move downtown.

“The direction that the city is now going, continuing to evolve into a college town for lack of a better description — this is a natural evolution of that relationship,” David said.

University and city officials will decide after one year whether or not to extend the Police Partnership Initiative. If the program continues, Flanders said he’d be happy to stay in the position — he really likes working with students.

“They line the streets, they spend money,” Flanders said. “And they’re good people. It’s better to see good people on the street than no people.”