Securing a Campus Environment Through Technology & Assessment

The convergence of security technologies with campus data networks presents significant opportunities, dangers and challenges.


Undoubtedly some of the most challenging and complex environments for security and law enforcement professionals are college and university campuses. Each campus attempts to balance security needs with a desire to be physically and intellectually accessible. Highly diverse geographical settings, student body size, religious, state and private affiliations, organizational missions, student activism, medical center relationships, philosophical beliefs, financial capabilities, crime experience, federal regulations and many other factors influence security programming. Compounding these issues is a new awareness of security concerns brought about by local, national, and international events.

Campus security programs cover a wide spectrum of skills and staffing levels, organizational structure, authority, training and technology implementation. There is no single right way to provide campus security services. Often, specific technologies have been installed in response to serious incidents. However, on more and more campuses, security technologies are being viewed as an integral part of the security and crime prevention strategy.

Although security technologies are more readily accepted now than they were just a few years ago, it is important to place these technologies in an appropriate context. Security technology, in and of itself, does not make a campus secure. Technology is only one component, albeit an important component, of the campus' overall security system. This system must also include security-related policies and procedures, appropriate levels of security staffing, professional program management, student, staff and faculty orientation and training, exercises, audits, compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act requirements, and administrative support. Today's campus security programs need to be sufficiently agile to quickly respond to changes in the environment.

Additionally, contemporary campus security programs must be comprehensive. These programs need to focus on prevention, management and recovery from incidents. Although many colleges and universities rely on local police agencies for law enforcement and emergency response, it is essential that internal and collaborative security plans include the mitigation of damage and organizational recovery. Students are the most important assets of every educational institution. Protecting the institution's human resources (students, faculty and staff) and meeting their needs during an emergent situation must be the highest priority.

Assessment
The first step in any security technology enhancement effort is a thorough assessment of needs, an audit of the campus security program. This assessment will include not only the operation and management of the security department, but overall campus operations, security technology implementation, student and staff orientation and training, residence hall administration, the identification of security-sensitive areas, a review of campus-wide policies and procedures and campus-community law enforcement relationships, an assessment of crime and incident statistics, and review of compliance with incident reporting requirements. The addition or enhancement of CCTV, alarm, call-for-assistance phones or access control technologies should be based on the results of this assessment.

Security's Data Highway
A number of innovations in security technology are impacting the ability of many institutions to purchase and install campus-wide, integrated security systems. Key among these innovations are the advanced data networking architectures now available for managing access control, alarm and CCTV equipment.

In the not-too-distant past, most access control systems required dedicated wiring or modems to connect data panels in each building with the head-end computer. Installation of wire through utility tunnels was often an expensive and cost-prohibitive process. Dedicated wiring was usually needed to provide reliable communication. The use of modems to provide communication often meant slow upload and download speeds and limited supervision of communication channels. Failure of the modem may not have been detected until a scheduled communication event. However, for the most common campus application, key replacement, this technology was sufficient.

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