While the goal of security operations at a college or university is to protect students, faculty, staff, visitors and facilities, an essential secondary goal is compliance with government regulatory requirements — including campus crime reporting.
All colleges and universities must comply with campus crime reporting requirements of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, also known simply as the Clery Act. The act ensures that information regarding crime on campus is readily available. In order for an institution to receive federal student financial aid, it must comply with the act; furthermore, violations are subject to steep fines and likely embarrassment in the media.
Clery Act requirements include collecting and categorizing crime reports, issuing crime alerts, publishing an annual crime report and maintaining a public log of reported crime in a consistent manner. It also seeks to enable prospective students and their parents to make more informed decisions about the relative safety of institutions before applying for admission and eliminates the perception of the hiding of campus crime statistics by institutional officials.
The Clery Act also includes security-related regulatory requirements. For example, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which outlines provisions for student loans and financial assistance, also requires disclosure of campus security policies related to emergency notification and evacuation procedures and of the number of fires and their causes in student housing. Schools with on-campus student housing are also mandated to have a notification and response policy when a resident student has been missing more than 24 hours. Another regulation is the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student education records and applies to all schools that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education.
It is clear that security compliance in the college and university regulatory climate requires a continuing flow of information about all facets of campus security activities. This information must be documented and compiled to fulfill compliance requirements and to provide important feedback and performance metrics to college and university administrators. Thus, leveraging a higher level of connectivity among security personnel and administrators on college campuses can supply a more complete picture of needed information, with software providing a tool to compile the information and maximize its usefulness.
Technology for Enhanced Campus-Wide Reporting
Because campus police and security officers work across an entire campus, they can serve as the “eyes and ears” of the campus security operation, as well as related areas such as facilities management. A security officer, for example, can report incidents such as broken glass or traffic slowdowns in addition to suspicious activity.
Mobile communication devices, such as smart phones, make it easy for officers to provide real-time information about campus operations. These devices free officers from the need to be tied to a video screen to monitor for incidents or in a patrol vehicle to report an incident.
Information — even video — can flow seamlessly to an officer’s hand-held device, and officers provide a continuous return of information via smart phones, text messaging, e-mail or computer entry. Security officers can send real-time notifications to a pre-determined list of recipients, review and manage an incident, assign it for investigation, if needed, or collect additional information. They can also attach video, photos or documents. The ability to perform all these functions using a mobile device boosts the capabilities of a skilled security force to new levels.
Thanks to advances in wireless and video technologies, today’s campus security officers respond in real-time based on information at their fingertips. Technology captures and reports incidents immediately, and the level of response can also be immediate. Security officers now interact with the technology to enable access to more information, presented in a way that is understandable and actionable and does not interfere with other duties.
The Connected Guard Force
Security officers conduct regular tours of facilities to inspect access and egress points, review overall fire and safety compliance, and deal with other aspects of building security and safety. Since they are trained to be observant of site-specific variables, they can also have a tremendous value-added impact beyond security. For instance, a security officer doing a tour can observe and confirm that various systems are working as intended, including maintenance issues with building and site lighting, door hardware, perimeter fencing, emergency phones, safety issues and more.
Beneficiaries of this new, more connected guard force extend beyond the security department to include student affairs leaders, risk and safety management, and maintenance and facility supervisors, who now receive more usable information from all over the campus thanks to the security officers.
However, dealing with the issue of regulatory compliance also requires that information on campus incidents be compiled into data and metrics that provide intelligence to improve campus operations and to aid compliance with statistical reporting and regulations. In this case, specific software provides the tool to transform information into intelligence.
Turning Information into Intelligence: RMS
Information reported by campus security officers equates to a multitude of data points that can build a records repository to enhance campus security. A records management system (RMS), sometimes called incident and case management software, is geared to meet reporting requirements of the Clery Act and enable colleges and universities to meet the regulatory burden of using this information.
An RMS is important for several reasons. First, it compiles security data to provide clear evidence of the effectiveness of campus safety and security programs. Software analysis of data yields trends and metrics to identify weaknesses. In effect, reporting and analysis of campus security data supports a continuous security improvement process. Some software systems can also perform a risk-based analysis of the campus security data.
Additional benefits of an RMS can include multi-language capabilities, investigative and case management workflow, advanced analytics and graphical reporting. The system can also be tied to a searchable person-of-interest database. A software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based system can be implemented with no capital investment or start-up fees and involves only a per-month fee. The software does not have to be difficult to configure and use, thus simplifying implementation by campus professionals who do not have time to wrestle with complex technology. Ease-of-use includes the ability to provide reports that can focus on information needed to analyze and boost security — and to fulfill regulatory requirements.
To meet the urgent needs of risk awareness, web-based real-time risk information and analysis software should be able to capture, manage and analyze risk and notify stakeholders instantly of important changes and incidents through text or email. With multiple departments — from student affairs to engineering and facility management — made aware of any potential liability in real-time, the incident can be managed before it escalates.
A simple example of the benefits of a connected campus security force is the requirement to regularly check fire extinguishers. Officers patrolling campuses and buildings can perform assessments and document them through a mobile device connected to the RMS. Extra personnel are called in only as needed to perform actual repairs.
Beyond serving such specific needs, a robust RMS provides an ongoing “big picture” view of the campus security and safety operations, including statistical reporting and metrics that enable administrators to fulfill regulatory reporting requirements routinely without a great deal of extra work. Some systems have campus regulatory and reporting requirements built into the software, so these essential elements become second nature to the overall management of a campus security and safety operation.
John Pack is director of Higher Education Security for G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc. To request more information about G4S, visit www.securityinfowatch.com/10483094.