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Education: K-12 / Education:University

Securing the ‘Community’

An open environment, challenges with funding and many constituents to please: campus security directors and integrators share their challenges with securing these “communities within a community.”

April 1, 2011
KEYWORDS college / university
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They say that these are the “greatest years” of someone’s life. The college years, the time to figure out a career, make friends and use the valuable time and experiences as the launching pad in which one can continue those “great” years in their 20s, 30s and beyond.

Yet, because of the open nature of university and college campuses, they often can be hot spots for crime. What are security directors doing to secure these “communities within a community,” as they often refer to it?  What’s working as far as effective solutions, and how can security directors secure more funding to get the job done?

Sister publications Securityand SDM brought together professionals in college and university campus security — three practitioners and three systems integrators — who specialize in finding solutions to the security issues in this sector. In this roundtable discussion, moderated by Security Editor Diane Ritchey and SDM Editor Laura Stepanek, they discuss the unique needs and the technology solutions.

Diane Ritchey: To the security directors, what are the unique needs and the security concerns for universities and colleges? What sets you apart from other sectors that may have open campuses, such as a hospital?

Raymond Thrower: The landscape of campus public safety in higher education has changed a lot, especially since 9/11, when you look at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University with the shooter situations and bomb incidents that we’ve had on our campuses. As you know, we’re considered soft targets because of the nature of our campuses. Most campuses are open and can be accessible from anywhere.

We’re looking at a multitude of things. We haven’t seen increases in our staff, and we’re doing more with less because of budget constraints.

We’re also asking how we get information out for mass notification. We’re looking at the multilayer, multimodal methods. We have low-tech methods of bullhorns and posters and the tech side with text messaging. A lot of campuses are using PA systems or sirens and looking at sending messages over the Web now.

We’re asking if our threat and vulnerability assessments are updated, is everyone NIMS compliant now, do we have updated emergency plans? Agencies now are making sure that they have mutual aid agreements with their first responders who will come in from surrounding areas, and we’re looking at first-responder training for our officers. We’re also looking at behavioral threat assessment teams.

Jasper Cooke: There is the misconception that we can lock our campuses down in a short period of time. We are the go-to place for so many activities. In 2011, almost every politician who’s running for office is speaking on one of our college campuses. We provide for these high-security events, and we have to have in place all of these resources Ray mentioned so we can do that.

Raymond Thrower: I’d like to comment on Jasper’s remark about lockdown. With K-12 or hospitals, you have one or only a few buildings. College campuses have hundreds of buildings, which makes lockdown a lot harder.

Doug Tripp: Ray and Jasper have done an excellent job in outlining some of the challenges that we face on university campuses. It’s important for people to understand that colleges are truly a community within a community. We have housing, retail establishments and large-scale events on campus. The challenges for chiefs and security directors are the same law enforcement challenges that a municipal chief may face, except that we have a very transient community. Our daily challenge is to provide effective law enforcement services with a relatively small amount of officers. But we also have to look at things like protecting the infrastructure of the university and the research enterprise, managing large-scale events such as football games, where we bring 60,000 people or more to campus, or the United States Olympic Trials. We hosted the track and field trials for the 2008 and 2012 Games, and those bring a tremendous challenge to ensure that the venue is secure and that patrons who are attending those events and athletes who are participating are safe and free of risk.

We also have to focus on security, risk management, environmental health and safety issues and emergency management issues, which brings a cadre of different challenges for the leadership over campus safety departments. Those challenges are unique to the university environment as opposed to a municipal environment. We need to be better at managing those types of integrated risk management issues to ensure that we’re protecting our campus environments.

 

Laura Stepanek: I’d like to hear now from the systems integrators and the role that you play in college and university campuses. Describe some of the typical solutions that your company recently has deployed for university and college campus and highlight a recent installation that was particularly innovative and successful for your company.

Lance Holloway: Recently at Auburn University we sat down with their IT department to look at a data directory or repository that held lists, such as students, housing and watch, being brought into a database. We were able to integrate the access control, video, and intrusion systems with their database so it was automated. We were able to save them quite a number of hours every day from typing data and receiving change requests. We also helped Auburn determine a policy to sublet administrative functions. For example, athletics could administer who goes where into their gymnasiums. This freed up security to bring everything back to a simple, manageable platform so they are able to respond to bigger events.

Thomas Sansone Jr.: A college in New Jersey has approximately 10 campuses between New York and New Jersey, and we handle everything from cameras to burglar alarms to access control. We even do their electrical backup generators, fire alarm, mass notification and emergency communications in the parking lots. Over the years we installed about 400 cameras consisting of matrix switchers and GE DVRs. We started that bigger upgrade about 10 years ago. When some of the DVRs started getting up there in age, we started talking to them about bringing the megapixel up to eight and up to date with IP technology.

Last year, we upgraded one of the campuses to the Avigilon platform. The nice thing about it was we were able to use all their existing cameras by installing encoders, which convert it to IP technology. We added some megapixel cameras, but we retained the switching and the control for the guards so they didn’t have learn a whole new system.

Since then, we deployed another system at a new campus they opened up in New York, and last week I got another contract to update one of their other campuses. Now we’re going to have about 200 IP cameras on the network, and there are still some regular analog left.

For mass notification, we installed systems by Evax throughout 10 campuses.

 

Laura Stepanek: It’s nice to hear about solutions that will allow facilities to move into the newer technologies, while not leaving all of the old technology behind.

Thomas Sansone Jr.: That’s the whole key. A new all-megapixel system could run you millions of dollars. I was able to come up with a solution for a fraction of the cost. Now they can budget every year to upgrade the system.

Thomas Sansone Sr.: Laura, we had another facility that we did in New York City, which is part of the CUNY system, where we put in 400 card readers, integrated 128 cameras, and now we have scream alarms in all the stairwells and panic alarms in the bathrooms, believe it or not. Our biggest challenge is that whenever somebody has to enroll any place in the state of New York, it has to talk to our system seamlessly. We had to hire a high school kid out of California to write that software for us. That was a pretty unique job for us.

 

Diane Ritchey: To the security directors, do you think that crime on college campuses has increased, decreased or stayed the same over the past two years? What are the common types of criminal activities taking place, and what are you using to combat them?

Doug Tripp: From our experiences at the University of Oregon, crime rates have remained fairly static over the last several years. The criminal challenges that we face are obviously drug and alcohol offenses, theft and criminal damage to property. Many of these types of offenses are directly correlated to the overconsumption of alcohol or the misuse of drugs.

Interesting to note though that 88 percent of our arrest and citations on campus are issued against those who are not part of our community. Individuals come to campus to victimize students, faculty and staff rather than students, faculty and staff victimizing each other. That’s an important element when we look at how we can protect the campus environment.

Jasper Cooke: Violent crimes in the community surrounding our campus have increased significantly while violent crimes on campus have remained the same over the last 3 to 5 years. The number of misdemeanor or petty crimes has increased, such as theft, hit and runs and vehicle hit and runs. The most significant rise in activity is with mental health issues.

A significant number of cars had been broken into at one of our off-campus properties. Although we have certified police officers working for the university police department, we’re fixing to hire non-sworn folks to put in areas where we have some problems to address. I don’t have enough officers to have more of uniformed presence.

We use traditional e-mail. We push things out electronically to folks. We’re developing a Facebook page for the department.

One of the biggest problems that we all face is that although we provide the information to the campus community, they don’t respond the way that we would like them to respond. For example, we’re having cars broken into because the laptops are still laying on the front seat of the car. While the cameras and other devices we have help us in the long run to identify the perpetrator, they don’t help to stop the crime. Our biggest challenge has been getting faculty, staff and students to take advantage of the services that we offer, such as the commonsense tips we provide to help keep them and their property safer while they’re on our property.

 

Diane Ritchey: Raymond, do you have this experience at your university? I’ve heard from other security directors as well that students that are reluctant to heed the warnings of a security department.

Raymond Thrower: I think it varies from campus to campus. We have a good working relationship with our community. In fact, we print a weekly report in our student newspaper listing all the incidents that occur. We also include crime prevention tips based on what trends that we’re seeing. With our multilayered, multimodal approach of getting information out to our students, we’re hitting about 89 percent of the college community. This is substantial considering that the average is between 25 and 40 percent.

Regarding crime, I’m like Doug and Jasper. Our crime statistics for the last three years show that it’s pretty well remained the same. We’re having the same issues—drugs, alcohol, thefts/larcenies, criminal damage to property.

We’re seeing stalking incidents on the rise, not only here at Gustavus but other schools. We’re seeing stalkers using social media like Facebook in order to stalk these individuals.

I think all colleges and universities are dealing with more mental health issues. Because of Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois and so forth, a lot of schools have threat assessment teams in which we get together a cross-section of campus professionals to talk about individuals who may be at harm to themselves or others.

 

Laura Stepanek: As a systems integrator, describe both what you see as opportunities that exist in the higher education market as well as particular challenges that you face.

Thomas Sansone Jr.: There are a lot of opportunities at these locations, and the biggest challenge that we find right now is low budgets whether it be on the private or public side. They put big wish lists together and typically get only a fraction of money approved. On the public side it’s a lot harder. If they specify a certain product or solution and can’t get it done for that budget, it typically doesn’t get done.

One challenge is that salespeople have to be very IT-savvy because most of the time you have to deal with the IT department. You’re putting something on their network, whether it be access control or CCTV, and they’ll ask how much bandwidth is that going to take, what will it do to my network, etc.

Lance Holloway: Customers within the university are working to create a culture for safety awareness. They’ve got to fight for dollars among the other groups within the school to get their piece, so they sometimes need help building the business case.

They need help understanding what their options to are to be able to phase out a given technology implementation; and how to work with IT so that their goals are similar to IT’s goals in that you’re not requiring IT to add headcount, to help implement something, such as adding servers for something. You’re streamlining the technologies. If another group within the school pushes through and gets, say, a different camera system, work with them collaboratively to make it a positive experience for the people at the university, no matter if they’re your direct customer or a different internal customer within the university.

Those are real opportunities because these university accounts are long-term relationships. It’s not a slam dunk of a product within a single season. It’s not like we got something in the stadium this fall, and we’re done. This is a long-term win—anything from master key solutions to mass notification to command center dashboards.

It takes a lot more strategic planning. With IT, you’ve got to be in there, giving them the right answers. It’s got to be a mature technology. You can’t leave security leaks by putting an old technology on an old server. You’ve got to be able to bring those pieces together. One piece is the cultural adaptation.

The other piece is the students. You have some real genius students at some of these universities. At one university, a young man had devised an app on his iPhone and was attempting to crack some of the card access readers at different dorms and different facilities. We were able to catch the anomalous activity because it showed up on our radar. We alerted the university, and they were able to bring the young man in. There are a lot of IT-centric standard solutions that need to go into place, and you have to be well versed in all these different facets.

 

Diane Ritchey: I’m glad that the integrators brought up funding because I’d like our end users to discuss the challenges that you are facing with securing funding for new security programs and upgrades to what you currently have.

Doug Tripp:The biggest challenge in the public sector, obviously, is budget dollars. Through creative and strategic proposals, we’re able to continue to drive initiatives. What’s most important in the public sector is that we develop proposals that manifest into results, and through those results we create a product that the institution can rely on and buy into, which drives further support as you move forward.

Again, the challenges around budget are significant, but I do believe firmly we’ve been very successful at the U of O in securing funding by developing a product that meets the needs of the university environment and securing funding as it adds value to the overall environment.

Jasper Cooke: In Georgia our state budgets at the public school have been reduced significantly in the last 3 years. We don’t look forward to anything turning around in the next couple years. Outside funding has also been reduced. For the university, our corporate partners are not as free with their money to help us as they used to be. A lot of the federal or state grants that many of us use to fund some projects are not as available or not even on the radar of our legislatures as funding gets cut at that level.

You just have to be more resourceful. We have funded some of our initiatives over a 2-year period or even a 3-year period. We still have the plan, everyone is still getting what they want, but we’re not able to fund it all at one time. Like most state governments, we can commit to only a 1-year contract, so we’ve divided larger projects into smaller, manageable projects.

We try to fund one of those each year. The academic arena is fighting for the same dollars that we’re fighting for on the security side, so it really makes it tough. As Doug said, if it doesn’t have direct influence on safety issues or you can’t show that it is going to be an enormous benefit to the university, it gets to the back burner in a heartbeat.

 

Diane Ritchey: Raymond, are you experiencing the same type of situation?

Raymond Thrower: Yes, I don’t know of any department in higher education that’s not experiencing the same problems. As I said before, we’re trying to do more with less, and some departments have taken some heavy hits. I was talking to a university director the other day about some initiatives that have been put on hold because the state had told this particular university that it needed to cut $160 million from its operating budget.

That has a major effect when you’ve got a lot of players within an institution, each needing some of the resources that are available. We’re looking at trying to be collaborative by working with other departments so that we can be more creative and get partners involved. Like Jasper said, corporate partners are not as generous as they used to be. You have a lot of different entities competing for the same money. At the end of the day, we’re looking at how we can integrate our different products together so that we’re more efficient and not having these different products out there that are standalone.

Thomas Sansone Jr.: Is everyone familiar with the Prevailing Wage Act which regulates what to pay the employees when you’re installing these systems? Most of the money for these systems goes to labor because we’re regulated by the government to pay a certain amount. Typically that amount is three to four times of what these workers are normally paid. Colleges and agencies should bring this up to the government because the prevailing wage eats away at your budget. If you’re spending $500,000 on a security upgrade, $300,000 of that is going to labor. I could do the same job in the private market for $300,000 for the entire job.

 

Diane Ritchey: I want to ask our security directors to share information about their mass notification systems—what you are using, if it’s working for you.

Jasper Cooke: It’s mix and match. We use one system that provides us with cell service, text messaging and e-mail response. We have another service that provides us with the ability to instantly communicate to anyone who is logged into our network system with an emergency pop-up window that takes over their computer. We have a reverse 911 system that we use locally in our community that encompasses not only all the phones on university property but the phones of our surrounding businesses and homeowners. We have a lot of other folks in our community every day who aren’t directly affiliated with the university, but we would need to notify them if we were to have an emergency. All of our community partners are in all of the mass notification systems that I’ve mentioned because we want them to know the same information that we push out to the campus. We make one call, and it notifies everybody on our calling list. The only thing we don’t have right now is external speakers because of where we’re located and trying to fit in with our neighborhood. Big poles with speakers quite won’t work, so we’re looking to use the bell tower in the center of campus as a resource. We already have the infrastructure to use that as our speaker system, so we don’t have to erect another tower.

Doug Tripp: The University of Oregon uses what’s called the UO Alert! text notification system, which is provided by Blackboard ConnectEd to push out emergency text messages through cellular devices to our faculty, staff, students and others who are registered on the system.

We also have Smart Classroom Alerts. Several of our classrooms are considered smart classrooms in that they have control panels that manage all the technology within the room. The control panels can display emergency alert information that can be pushed out through the communications and emergency response center and public safety.

We also use homepage alerts, blast e-mail, campus radio and local media to push messaging. Reverse 911 is another option. We also use widearea broadcast. We’re just entering into using Talk-a-Phone devices to drive messaging within certain geographical areas on campus. Those have been placed primarily in our large athletic venues, such as the Matt Knight Arena, and we’re hoping at some point to put it at our Autzen complex where our football stadium is, then expand that throughout the campus environment.

Raymond Thrower:  When you start looking at mass notification, you have to look at a multilayered, multimodal approach. You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket in case that one particular system fails, so you have to look at the low tech and the high tech.

We’re using Advanced Wireless and Rave. We have a PA system on the outside of our campus. The nice thing about a PA system is that you can immediately tell people what they need to know. Some schools are using sirens, but you don’t know necessarily what they’re trying to tell you.

Being here in the Midwest, sirens going off means that we’ve got severe weather or a tornado coming toward us. We have a system for lightning detection that sounds like a tractor-trailer air-horn to notify us when lightning is in our area. The patrol cars are all equipped with PAs so that they can give information out. Our call boxes are tied in. We’re set up where we can do e-mails, hit our intercoms. Advanced Wireless was just in here this morning installing pop-up message banners that can go on our computer screens.

Like Jasper, we’re starting to look at social media: Facebook, MySpace, Twitter to disseminate information out to the students. We’re looking at how we can use our phone trees both on and off campus and take advantage of our campus TV system to put out to all of our TV screens. We’re looking at  ways that we can integrate all this in together.

Then you have to deal with getting people to sign up. Some schools have an opt-in system; some have an opt-out. Colleges and universities are trying to figure out what form to use in order to get people to buy into the system so that if an emergency does occur on campus, we can disseminate that information quickly.

Doug Tripp: I think the theme that’s resonating through the three security providers is that no one system will serve the entire need of the campus community; thus the integration that was mentioned earlier is critical to ensure that during an emergency, the broadest cut of the campus community is exposed to that messaging so that they can respond appropriately. The integrative concept of emergency notifications is critical to the success of pushing those messages out to the community.

 

Laura Stepanek: What’s on your wish list in terms of technology? If money were no option, what kinds of solutions would you like to get your hands on?

Lance Holloway: The higher education environment needs technologies that make registration more expedient. I think in the near future, we’ll begin to see biometrics take a stronger role. Biometrics are more accurate, and the throughput is considerably increased so you can start running thousands of students through for registration. A good integration to the IT systems will make it more fluid so it’s not a traumatic experience a couple times a year.

I would like to leverage event management quite a bit more through the mass notification; the command consoles or dashboards that security can use.

Thomas Sansone Jr.: I agree with the biometrics. I am getting asked more and more about that. We’ve done quite a bit of it, but none of it’s 100 percent accurate yet.

Doug Tripp: With the more restricted budgets that we’re working under, any type of technology that can make us more efficient in protecting the campus community is good. We would like to see an enhancement of how we use video surveillance, especially using video analytics as an overlay to our CCTV capabilities and to create a virtual patrolling modality.

We support pushing any type of technology that integrates multiple technologies into an effective system that can prevent and address criminal activity on campus and make sure that we have a safe environment, keeping cost considerations in mind.

Jasper Cooke: We need a check and balance. What we have now gives us entry and access, but it doesn’t give us a check and balance. You’re going to see some redundancy in those operations because that’s the only way that we’re going to establish true credentialing of the folks who need to get into those high sensitive areas that some of us have on our colleges and universities across the country.

Raymond Thrower: At the end of the day we’re trying to provide an environment for our college campus and universities that is conducive to not only learning and working but living at our campuses. We’re looking at the technology that is out there now so that we can take advantage of it because our manpower is not increasing.

Diane Ritchey: We want to thank everyone for taking the time to discuss some of the challenges and success stories. We hope you’ll be leaving the conversation with good ideas to implement in your respective universities and businesses. 


 

The Roundtable Participants

Jasper Cooke is the director of public safety at Augusta State University in Augusta, Ga. He has a Master of Public Administration from Columbus State University in Columbus, Ga. and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Augusta State University in Augusta, Ga. He is a graduate of the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College, a two-year executive leadership program. He has been involved with campus law enforcement for more 30 years in the state of Georgia. He is currently responsible for Police and Parking services at Augusta State University. ASU has about 6,700 students, 800 faculty and staff and is located in the historic district of Augusta. He has been active in the Georgia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, serving as president in 1993-1994 and from 1998 until 2004; he served the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police as a District Vice President. He has been active in both professional state associations, as well as with IACLEA for most of his law enforcement career. Jasper is currently the Treasurer for IACLEA.

Lance Holloway is director of technology strategy for Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, Inc. Holloway’s career in the security industry began with Best Access in 1993 as an EAC Service Technician. He has held positions including project manager, sales agent and support engineer with Best Access prior to the company being acquired by Stanley Security Solutions in 2001. Holloway is certified in numerous technical applications including Microsoft MCTS, Oracle OCP, PL/SQL and certified in systems’ operations including Lenel, Loronix, Hirsch and Video Surveillance. He has worked with some of Stanley CSS’s most complex and sophisticated enterprise level customers merging IT systems, multiple databases and various security platforms. He developed and implemented the Stanley IT Matters certification program and is a Stanley Security Solutions President’s Club winner.

Tom Sansone Sr. is president of T&R Alarms, which has contracts completed for the State of New York in systems such as access control, security video, fire alarm, electrical, back-up power, scream detection, voice evacuation, paging, data integration, PLC installations and metal detection. Vice president Tom Sansone Jr. primarily handles the privately held colleges and campus environments. Growing up in a family business gave him the opportunity to start from the bottom and work himself up to his current position. He has a great understanding of what it takes to get the job done since he was a technician for many years. He works directly with everyone from maintenance staff to the decision makers and owners.

Raymond H. Thrower, Jr. has more than 32 years experience in law enforcement with 24 years management experience in public safety administration and environmental health and safety.  He has served as the director of campus safety at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minn. for the past 12 years. Prior to Gustavus, he served as director of public safety and chief of police for Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. He holds a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from Sacred Heart College. As past president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), he has and continues to contribute extensively to the national and international dialog for K-12 and campus public safety. He serves as a master trainer for the Community and College Consortium for Health and Safety Training (C.C.C.H.S.T.); adjunct instructor at South Central College in the departments of Environmental Health and Safety, Fire and Police; and adjunct instructor for Michigan State University Outreach School of Criminal Justice. He holds two national certifications - Firefighter II and a Fire and Rescue Instructor Level II.

Chief Douglas Tripp began his career in campus law enforcement with Marquette University’s Department of Public Safety in 1989. He rose through the ranks to the position of assistant director leaving to become the director - department of campus safety for the University of Denver. In 2006 he accepted the position of director - department of public safety for Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC). During his tenure Chief Tripp contributed to the 2007 State of Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Campus Safety as the technical college system representative. In addition, he successfully gained MATC Board approval (FPO-11) to seek legislative change to create a fully sworn MATC campus police department. Late in 2007 he was named the associate director- department of public safety at the University of Oregon subsequently being promoted to the director position in early 2009. As director he has developed a new strategic vision for the Department of Public Safety creating a model organizational approach to campus safety. Chief Tripp has recently led local and statewide efforts to enhance the limited police authorities currently granted to university public safety officers in Oregon. In 2010 he was promoted to chief and executive director- department of public safety, leading a dynamic portfolio that is responsible for developing and implementing the University of Oregon’s global campus safety strategies.  He possesses an associate’s degree from Illinois Central College, a bachelor’s degree from St. Ambrose University and master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee.  

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