Post Virginia Tech: Facing Community Complexities
A year ago, on April 16, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 students and faculty members before killing himself at Virginia Technology University. It was the deadliest college shooting in modern U.S. history. The 23-year-old student had been described as a loner.
State and university incident reports highlight the need for security improvements. Check out the Trends column by Security Magazine Publisher elsewhere in this issue. But colleges and universities, whether in a cornfield, suburb or downtown location, are unique and complex communities with a diversity of risks and complexities of stakeholders.
Here are interviews from those closest to the environment to provide a more well-rounded vision into this challenging assignment.
SEAN TALLARICOThe sixth oldest college in the nation, current student
population is around 1,450, with 1,170 living on campus in college-owned
housing. “We are a commissioned police department. There are nine full-time
commissioned police officers and one part time police officer. In addition we
have two non-sworn police officers. Our operation is 24/7. We are responsible
for all law enforcement issues on campus, liaison with state and federal
agencies, parking, everything. If it has to do with security and safety, it’s
Director of campus safety/chief of police, Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pa.
According to Tallarico, his operation has to provide a safe and secure learning environment for not only the students but for faculty/staff. ”We have to do it in a way that allows people to get a sense of what they are, who they are, but at same time accept consequence of action. It’s doing all the normal, everyday law enforcement responsibility, but doing it on a college campus in such a way that we engage students, faculty and staff as stakeholders in the institution and in their own safety.
“We are a community policing model. My officers are out there walking through residence halls, making contact with students. We believe crime prevention programming is important. Students seeing police officers in everyday rounds gives them a better sense of who we are and makes them more confident in reaching out to us. We don’t want to be hidden in a closet and only brought out when there is a problem. I see us as a thread that runs through the institution and helps hold it together.”
Added Tallarico, “There have been several benchmarks in terms of campus security. It started with the Vietnam War, then Columbine, then 7/11. These events woke the entire community up as to what crisis management was all about. I think if you want to talk about making stakeholders out of everybody, crisis management has done that.”
Concerning security technology he sees the top answer as instant communication. “Also cameras and how they have connected to computers. You can use cameras in ways you couldn’t before and I think that has been a good thing.”
CHIEF JAMES REID
A historic black college, Paine is 126 years old. Security
operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “Our primary responsibility is to
provide security and safety for faculty and students, as well as the
preservation of property. We are also involved in fire safety and the
illumination of the campus. We have a bicycle patrol, and posted personnel. We
also use roving officers who actually walk the campus, in conjunction with the
bicycle. That is another example of our proactive security and safety
Director of campus safety, Paine College, Augusta, Ga.
Reid believes in policing the campus by way of communication with faculty, students and staff. “That is known as community policing. For students, we make ourselves available 24 hours a day. We make them understand that we are important in their life. We will assist them in both security and safety. We are open to any concerns or even suggestions by the student body. They bring things to our attention and we get things addressed. We try to be as much as we can as often as we can to all of the students.”
For parents, Reid provides personal contact information, including home and cell phone. “They can’t call too early, too often or too late. We are always available to address all concerns. If they have concerns about particular incidents, we provide as much information as possible. We don’t hide anything from anyone.”
On the tech side, he sees value in the use of monitoring systems on campus, specifically camera systems. “These have truly enhanced our ability to be able to detect and then intervene should there be incidents on campus. It also acts as a deterrence factor.”
A small Christian college
with 1,200 students on campus and another 1,200-1,400 commuters is right
Campus safety director, Bethel College, Mishawaka, Ind.
House’s main focus is the students. “We are here to protect them. People seem to come here and feel secure inside this ‘Bethel bubble.’ That’s a good feeling, but we can get too relaxed. We are in an inner city. We need to keep safe from the exterior.”
House is always cautious. “I don’t want to fall into an every day pattern in security. Always keep it alive and mixed up. We don’t walk the same route every day; we always have a different eye and different view. Always stay alert and look for little key things. Keep eye on everything as much as possible.”
In addition, he is rolling in more higher technology with the IT department.
chartered in 1896, was the first institution of higher education for the
liberal arts and sciences on Long Island. In Garden
City, there are six
residence halls that house 1,091 students.
Executive director of public safety & transportation, Adelphi University, Garden City, N.Y.
“The shootings that have taken place at universities throughout the country were terrible and tragic -- another grievous instance of the kind of senseless violence that seems to erupt in our nation all too often,” said Palma. “It is natural that such an incident makes each of us look around at our own environment and contemplate the unthinkable. The reality of what happened at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University impacts every college and university throughout the country. It can make all of us feel vulnerable. It is so important for all security directors to continue to exchange information and ideas with our colleagues in the higher education community and law enforcement, in order to identify the best possible response, communication, and prevention measures for these tragic or emergency occurrences and always remember it is important for students, faculty, and staff to play a role in campus safety.”
Uniquely, Adelphi University has in place an “all hazards” emergency response plan. The plan emphasizes fast reaction to incidents, swift notification of emergency services, rapid involvement of senior university officials, and prompt communication through a variety of means. Added Palma, “It’s important to make your emergency response plan available to your community and keep them advised of changes made to enhance safety on the campus. To facilitate collaboration among the many individuals whose work affects our collective security, Adelphi has established a Threat Assessment Team. In establishing the Threat Assessment Team, Adelphi has implemented one of the Congressional recommendations that followed in the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. The work of this team relates solely to addressing serious safety issues involving members of the campus community.”
Added Palma, “The Virginia Tech shootings highlight the importance of timely, accurate, and effective communications during a campus emergency. No institution should rely solely on one means of communication to get out a message that could impact the safety of their campus community.”
In an urban setting in downtown Los Angles, part of the
campus is typical but a lot of the campus and where students reside have
interactions out in the community. The undergrad population is 16,500, and
graduate is 17,000.
Executive director/chief of department of public safety, University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, Calif.
According to Drayton, “We are private security. The state of California allows for an agreement between the city and university to give us law enforcement powers that are restricted to campus. That is what we have with the city of L.A. We have 82 officers who are sworn through that process. They all have powers of arrest and carry guns. Another 126 are security guards. They carry no firearms and have no power of arrest. They interact with community.”
For Drayton, it’s campus policing. “What people describe as community policing I say is campus policing. That is generally described as a philosophy of community policing where we are interacting with community members to determine what is important to them and solve issues that are there. We also encourage information to come to us on crimes that may occur. We want to make sure we deploy our personnel in the best fashion to not only prevent crime but also apprehend people while they are attempting a crime. It’s about being in the right place at the right time through analysis of information.”
There also is attraction to security technology. “Integrated electronic management systems, which would include cameras, access control and a number of other technologies, are important. In particular with security video, the use of video analytics has the most promising potential, along with facial recognition. These two things will really help in the future as they begin to develop more.”
SIDEBAR: UCLA Enhances Campus Emergency Notification SystemThe University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is representative of the daunting task facing university officials as they plan for and deploy an emergency alerting system. As one of the country’s largest universities, with a population in excess of 45,000 people, UCLA took a proactive approach to risk mitigation and emergency response. In addition to employing a highly trained security team, it embraced technology as part of the first line of defense.
UCLA looked beyond traditional campus alerting solutions and reviewed how some of the most security-minded organizations in the world handled emergency alerting. In its research, UCLA identified a working list of criteria required for an emergency alerting system. At the top of that list were:
- Unified and redundant multi-channel alerting
- Scalability and speed of alert dissemination
- Accurate and up-to-date contact information
No single alerting channel is likely to reach all people on campus. UCLA addressed this reality by selecting a multi-channel alerting system that unifies multiple forms of communication channels.
Now when UCLA is faced with an emergency, whether an earthquake or traffic accident, it is able to react promptly and put the right information in the hands of students and staff through multiple channels, regardless of their location. According to Jack Powazek, assistant vice chancellor, General Services for UCLA, “Sometimes it’s a specific portion of the campus that needs to be notified, and at other times, we need to alert the entire campus.”
Depending on the scenario, the system can target the entire campus or specific groups within the university population with alerts reaching the intended recipients within minutes.