University of Del. police now armed

January 25, 2008 3:51:13 PM PST
The University of Delaware's campus police officers have always had guns, but they've never carried them until now.

As of Friday, those officers are packing heat.

The men and women who are responsible for keeping the Newark campus safe welcome the change.

Rookie Ryan Welsh knows exactly how he feels about being an armed police officer now.

"A little bit safer. I'm sure my wife appreciates it," said Welsh.

And so does Officer Welsh's boss. Police Cheif James Flatley says in the 29 years he's been on the force, officers have never carried their weapons.

"There are situations that come up. The officers found themselves in that having that tool may have made things a little easier, but we've been fortunate over the years that no officers have ever been harmed," said Flatley.

But over the years officers have been forced to grab their guns after opening a locked box inside their patrol cars.

"I think people even committing the crimes are probably thinking 'I'll have more time to do this if they have to run back to their cars to get their weapons,' so that will probably make the crime rate go down a little bit," said freshman Mandy DiLiberto.

Campus officials insist the university is safe, but students welcome the change.

"I think that's really good for the protection of the students," said Carrie Whallon.

"I just would feel a lot safer if they did carry weapons around with them," said Ashley Gebhart.

"I think it makes for a safer environment. I'm happy with it," said John Bastone.

Now that Officer Welsh is carrying his weapon, his old gun box has a news use -- as an arm rest.

There is one more change on the horizon for the university's police force, Soon 15 new officers will be sworn in.