Gregory Jones was walking toward campus Wednesday afternoon when John Beshara saw him pitch a can behind the McDonald’s on Fifth Avenue.
Littering has always been one of Beshara’s pet peeves.
After a background check turned up a warrant for Jones, Beshara made another arrest in his career of more than 20 years on the force.
Beshara said he’s not sure about how many arrests he has made — more than 1,000, he figures.
But this was his first arrest as Youngstown State University’s police chief.
“Drinking an open can of beer — what kind of image does that portray to the kids?” Beshara said after completing the arrest.
Most students’ safety concerns involve the area surrounding campus.
“I see a lot of weird activity in the parking garages and on the streets surrounding campus,” freshman Alex Pustinger said. “I think that’s a little too close for comfort.”
Beshara said he plans to continue the YSUPD’s relationship with the city police to keep people like Jones away from campus.
Beshara graduated from YSU with both his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement.
He said the last few days have been a whirlwind because he was offered the job as YSU police chief on Friday and started on Monday. He’s been doing meet-and-greet events and has been in meetings to acquaint himself with the position.
Beshara said he looks forward to settling into his new position so that he can interact with others and work the parts of his job that he loves the most.
“College is great. Students come in with big imaginations,” Beshara said. “They shouldn’t have to worry about being safe while they’re here.”
Getting out and talking to students is one way Beshara plans to bring a feeling of safety to campus.
“Police people have to be good at communicating,” Beshara said.
Beshara comes into the job from the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department. He said he has some big plans to improve several aspects of policing.
He said he believes that controlling what may seem to be a small violation is the foundation for keeping order during the more serious violations.
Beshara said he often notices cars on Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan avenues that are parked the wrong way on the street; he will issue a citation when he sees this.
“We have to keep order. As simple as it is, no matter how small, we try to deal with it,” Beshara said.
He added that if the police department were to slide on the small violations, this doesn’t mean they would do so for the “big stuff.”
He said he understands that students often use Wick Park to work out, and even though it’s off campus property, the YSUPD likes to patrol the area.
“Students use it, so because of that, we keep it safe for them,” Beshara said.
Beshara said he is a firm believer in communication and said it’s vital to the safety of the community.
He said he plans to
implement a chain of command within the police department so that everyone knows who to report to, leaving less room for miscommunication. Beshara will execute this plan only after talking with the department.
“To attempt to do anything right, you have to get input from those involved,” Beshara said.
He said he would also like to improve the technology used by the police department by investing in Rapid ID fingerprint scanners and license plate scanners.
Rapid ID scanners would identify persons who don’t have their identification on them. They would do so by scanning that person’s fingerprint; in a matter of minutes, the scanner would bring up their picture, information and whether warrants are out for their arrest.
License scanners are devices that attach to the dashboards of vehicles and scan all license plates and bring up alerts in case the car has been reported stolen or if the driver is wanted.
“People in the city come through campus all the time,” Beshara said. “It’s important for us to know who is on campus 24 hours a day.”
He said theft is a problem on campus. To cut down on theft, Beshara plans to patrol “hot spots,” such as the dorms and parking lots, for thievery.
“Students, don’t leave anything important on your seats with your windows down,” Beshara said.
“I have friends that live in the apartments near campus, and I want to feel safe when I’m there,” freshman Nikki Rendziniak said.
Beshara said he plans to communicate with the hosts of parties that occur near campus to defer activity before it gets out of hand.
“Underage drinking is not a large problem, but it is a problem,” Beshara said.
He said the department would continue patrolling beyond university borders and assisting the Youngstown Police Department to improve the problem.
“I love my job,” Beshara said.
When Beshara was attending YSU for his master’s degree, attorney Patty Wagner, chairwoman of the criminal justice and forensic science program, had had Beshara as a student.
“We knew that he was destined for greatness,” Wagner said.