Niagara Falls community college beefs up security

Niagara County Community College is ready to provide around-the-clock security coverage.

The college's board of trustees approved a motion this past week to add a new director of security position and add one-and-a-half new officers to its force, offering 24-hour coverage for the first time.

In April, the Gazette found NCCC was one of the only colleges in the region to not offer 24-hour security coverage. Dennis Dragich, vice president of operations for NCCC, said the move to 24-hour coverage is not in response to problems, but rather is a precaution that should provide "increased deterrence."

"In talking with our peer colleges, they have all either gone or are going toward increasing their presence around the clock," Dragich said. "It gives me someone on the scene that should be there in an emergency instead of relying on an alarm system."

The college, with an enrollment of about 6,400 students, currently has five full-time officers and one part-time officer for regular daytime shifts. With the upgrades, the college will add one more officer but spread out part-time shifts to extend coverage, Dragich said.

The new staff could be added to the force as early as September as long as the Niagara County and state 2008-09 budgets are approved. The college has requested nearly $9 million in funding from the county and the state aid formula calls for NCCC to get about $12.5 million.

The cost for the security upgrades is estimated between $100,000 and $125,000, according to William Schickling, vice president of finance for NCCC. A salary for the director of security position has not yet been determined. All security staff, including the director of security, are civil service positions.

Security officers at the college will remain unarmed and uncertified, but the director of security will be a certified peace officer. Peace officers go through 330 hours of training and have the power to make warrantless arrests, although they cannot carry weapons.

The director of security position will not be administrative and "will have the same scope of responsibility as the officers do," Dragich said, but the "main thrust is the supervision and organization" aspects.

The college is offering on-campus housing for the first time next year and security around the dorms will be provided by United Realty Management Corp., the company building and operating the suites. But new housing means more students on campus at night that need security coverage, said James Klyczek, president of the college.

"Even though they have their own security, those people living in student housing are our students," he said. "Hopefully they will use the library later at night or will be able to come over and use the gyms later."