Campus News - December 3, 2001

On the job at UNM
McGinnis curbs campus crime

By Michael Padilla

Detective Michael McGinnis has been fighting crime at UNM for 23 years. Photo by Michael Padilla.For more than 23 years, Police Detective Michael McGinnis has been following leads, interviewing people and completing routine investigations at UNM. But after the events of Sept. 11, his job responsibilities have intensified.

“A lot of work has been generated since Sept. 11,” McGinnis said. “I have been responding to calls with concerns of suspicious packages around campus. Between me and SHEA (Safety, Health & Environmental Affairs Department) we have responded to about 12 suspicious letters or packages that people had concerns with. Fortunately, the packages turned out to be harmless.”

For two months, McGinnis has spent his Friday afternoons patrolling the area near the Bookstore where peace demonstrators gather to voice their opinions about the war on terrorism and in Afghanistan.

“I monitor the practices of the general public and protestors,” he said. “I serve as a peace officer and I make sure that the protestors are respected and are given the opportunity to practice their free speech.”

McGinnis represents UNM on the New Mexico Domestic Terrorism Working Group which includes members of federal, state and local enforcement officers. The purpose of the group is to coordinate and communicate with each other various concerns about possible terrorist activities.

“I bring events that happen at UNM to the table for discussion to see if there are similarities to other events,” he said. “It’s important that everyone is on the same page. Items that we discuss are for law enforcement purposes and we solve problems before they become major events.”

McGinnis, who is one of only two police detectives at UNM, has investigated nearly 1,500 cases since he first started at UNM in 1979. He follows the cases all the way through prosecution.

“Basically I start each case by asking a lot of questions, then I interview people, examine evidence and I consult with district attorneys,” he said. “They determine what’s necessary and the evidence is presented to the grand jury.”

He said each case is unique. He has solved many cases including catching a member of UNM’s Crimestoppers organization embezzling and helped to convict another employee stealing UNM property. “The suspect was taking televisions, VCRs, chairs, vacuum cleaners and other items,” he said. “She had been doing it for a number of years. She was caught as a result of a video surveillance that I had done. After the conviction nearly $15,000 worth of merchandise was returned.”

Actively working on six cases, he says the biggest challenge as a detective is dealing with the amount of cases with the amount of resources available. “UNM is a great place to be and crime is comparable to other institutions of the same size,” he said, adding that UNM does a lot of crime prevention.

“Students are safe here,” he said. “People here really care about students and we do a lot to provide a safe environment for our students.

“I’ve seen other universities, especially in the eastern part of the United States where students aren’t as safe,” he added.

Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., McGinnis said he enjoys working at UNM and never thought he would have stayed here beyond two years. “It’s a beautiful place to work and the people here are great,” he said.

He said the most important part of being a detective is being patient and honest. “Everything a detective does is based on integrity,” he said. “A detective would not be able to function in a court of law without integrity. A good detective is a person who is very curious and asks a lot of questions and seeks out the truth based on the evidence.”

He also serves as the Police Departments firearms, general police and CPR instructor.

McGinnis is a member of the New Mexico Disaster Medical Assistance Team and although he did not have the opportunity to participate in New York Ground Zero deployment, he participated in the emergency medical efforts at the 1994 U.S. Olympics in Atlanta and with clean-up efforts of Hurricane George in Montgomery, Al. He also has assisted in medical training at Elephant Butte.


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