Safe campus: A secure learning environment


By Douglas Esser
Ear buds, USB cords, rain jackets, sunglasses, umbrellas, books and water bottles all covered tables at the North Creek Events Center Thursday for the annual sale of unclaimed items from the University of Washington Bothell/Cascadia College lost-and-found.

“We’re just trying to clear the decks,” said Campus Safety Sgt. Terry Rauch.

Even at 25-cents each, the water bottles weren’t fast sellers. People who waited for the doors to open at 8 a.m. got the best deals on the valuable items. One person rode away on a bike for $35. Officers would have been happier if everyone who forgot or lost something claimed it at the Campus Safety Office.

The lost-and-found is one of the services provided by the Campus Safety Department under its mission to promote a safe and secure learning environment.

“That’s our main focus — ensure that the students who come here have a great college experience — and find different ways to add value to their experience here,” says Safety Director Cham Kao.

Kao (whose name is pronounced chahm kay-oh “K-O like a knockout”) is a 45-year-old Mill Creek resident who has been in charge of UW Bothell-Cascadia College campus safety since January 2014. He previously was a sergeant with University of Washington police, where he served 14 years.

Kao directs a force of 10 officers, two sergeants, four dispatchers and five part-time students. They are responsible for maintaining campus safety 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Kao tells his team they’re making an impact with each individual they contact.

“We’re dealing with future doctors, future lawyers, future scientists,” he says. “Things that we can do to help are great.”

The officers patrol on foot, in cars and on bikes. They can respond rapidly to problems or complaints. Routine incidents include graffiti, vandalism, car scrapes and disturbances. The campus community can help by remaining vigilant.

“If you see something out of the ordinary that you think is a little suspicious – it’s that gut feeling you have – react to it,” Kao says. “Always give us a call. Don’t feel like you’re bothering Campus Safety or Bothell Police.”

Report anything suspicious by calling 911 or Campus Safety at 425-352-5359 or 425-352-5222.

Kao says the first step for many officers is simply one of education, for example, telling people vaping e-cigarettes they must use the same designated smoking areas as tobacco smokers.

Officers also are reminding longboarders their boards can be used only for transportation, not for play, which can damage property.

And, an officer who sees a laptop left on a library table will stick around until the owner returns to remind the owner of the risk for unattended valuables, Kao says.

Safety officers might also direct traffic in periods of heavy congestion on campus, which typically are around 10:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.

Kao’s Campus Safety Department is part of the Office of Administration and Planning. Along with Emergency Preparedness Manager Darren Branum, Kao helps plan for natural or man-made disasters. Kao also coordinates with Bothell Police and other agencies as necessary.
Photo: Cham Kao, left, Bothell Officer Les Brooks, Campus Safety Officer Stefen Kaelber, with bike.

Bothell police enforce the 20 mph speed limit on campus and can issue traffic tickets. Bothell Police Officer Les Brooks says city police also respond to “sporadic” incidents such as car prowls, thefts, collisions or protection orders from dating relationships gone bad.

Kao says there’s no difference between the UW Bothell and Cascadia College campuses, students or the types of incidents, from his point of view.

Campus Safety officers also can help you jump-start a car with a dead battery and admit you to a building or office if you’re locked out. They control access to buildings through your Husky card. And the office, in the LB2 building on the level of Campus Way NE, is where you go for lost and found items.
Photo: Lost bike finds new owner.

Some of the part-time students ask Kao for advice about a possible career in law enforcement. “I just tell them I love helping people, making a difference,” he says.

Detailed information is available online:
Campus safety:
Safe campus campaign:
Campus emergency page:

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