Point to the Camera
- By Michael Fickes
- November 1st, 2011
Not long ago, on an urban university campus, a female
student walking alone in the evening noticed a man shadowing her. Quickening
her pace, she walked to one of the emergency call stations dotting the campus.
The man kept coming.
At the station, the student picked up the phone and asked a
campus police officer for help. The officer told the woman to turn around, look
the man in the eye and point to the camera mounted on the call station.
As she pointed, the officer used his remote control console
to pan the camera until it framed the man. Then the officer pressed the zoom
control, and the lens jutted out toward the man with an electronic buzz. The
would-be attacker got the point and took off.
The story illustrates how a campus police and security
organization can prevent crime: The police on this campus understood the threat
posed by muggers, robbers, and sexual predators and erected emergency call
stations. They worked with students and trained them to use the stations. They
hired savvy, quick-thinking officers to take the calls and trained them to use
the camera technology.
Those are the basics: assess threats, create preventive
strategies, employ qualified people, support them with technology, and train
everyone from the police and security staff to students, faculty, staff, and
even parents. Everyone works together.
Prevention Starts With a Risk Assessment
“A risk assessment produces a comprehensive list of risks
and vulnerabilities,” says Steven J. Healy, managing partner with Margolis
Healy & Associates, LLC, a higher education safety and security consultant
based in Richmond, VT, and Princeton, NJ. “The list may include high-risk
drinking, sex violence, robbery, terrorism, other crimes, and natural
Start with the most common campus crimes, usually burglary,
illegal drug use, motor vehicle theft, sex offenses, and underage drinking.
Crime reports required by the Clery Act can give you an idea of the crimes most
prevalent on your campus. Remember, though, the Clery Act does not require
reporting of most kinds of thefts.
You also need to consider what is happening elsewhere. “Just
because there has never been a terrorist event or a shooting on your campus,
you cannot ignore the possibility,” says Stevan P. Layne, CPP, CIPM, a
principal with Nokomis, FL-based Layne Consultants International, which serves
a number of college and university clients.
Develop Prevention Strategies
“Once you have a list of risks, prioritize it and develop
strategies to deal with each,” advises Healy. “Create a continuum. How can you
prevent this crime? If prevention fails, how will you mitigate the problem? How
will you respond and neutralize it? Finally, how will you recover and return to
Prevention comes first. Is a residence hall suffering too
many thefts? Effective prevention might include better lighting outside and in
common areas inside, access control and video technology, and more frequent
police or security patrols. If the budget won’t support all that, improve the
lighting and the locks, while patrolling more often. If that doesn’t work, you
will at least have a case to take to the administration for funding access
control and video surveillance cameras.
Strategies for tamping down thefts at a residence hall don’t
require a rocket scientist. But there are more difficult prevention tasks. How
can you prevent an emotionally disturbed member of the campus community from
going on a shooting spree? You have no way of knowing where it will happen or
when. What can you do?
“To develop a preventive strategy for an active shooter, I
would look at the current literature about prevention,” says Healy, “and
develop a program that equips the community to identify and report people that
fit the emotional profile. If you can intervene and manage the circumstances
that might cause this person to act out, you may be able to prevent a
Prevention — as well as mitigation, response, and recovery —
requires sufficient staffing.
“There is no one accepted formula for determining how much
staffing you need,” says Paul V. Verrecchia, chief of police and director of
public safety at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC, and current
president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement
Administrators (IACLEA). “Some use X officers per thousand people on campus.
Others prefer X officers per square foot.” Another approach involves a workload assessment — what do you expect each officer to do during his or her eight-hour shift?
Verrecchia considers workloads, looking at calls for
service, response times, report writing, training and professional development,
going to court, sick leave, vacations, lunch, and administrative chores like
fueling and inspecting a vehicle.
You can find a lot of workload information from your
computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, continues Verrecchia. He tracks a
response time for each kind of call that comes in. What time was the officer
dispatched? When did the officer arrive? How long was the officer on the scene?
When did the officer return? How much time did it take to write the report?
“This tells you whether you have enough officers,” he says.
“Once you have a baseline, then it makes sense that a growth in the campus
population may require more officers. Over the past seven years, for instance,
we’ve built two new residence halls on campus, and the percentage of students
living on campus grew from 28 percent to 36 percent. That has led us to add two
new security officers and one new campus police officer.”
Technology as a Force Multiplier
Of course, an institution’s budgetary limitations can limit
staffing. Used wisely, technology can redress the balance.
“Technology is a force multiplier,” says Healy. “But not a
standalone solution. For instance, using cameras seems reasonable, but you
can’t put cameras everywhere. You have to fit cameras into the culture.
“You must also manage expectations. If you install 200
cameras on a campus, what are you telling the community? Does the community
think you are actively monitoring? If so, fine, but if you are interested in
post-incident investigations, you have to make that clear to the community.”
Security technology has taken great strides in recent years.
Megapixel surveillance cameras can produce more detailed images. Access control
technology enables one person at a computer to lock and unlock doors across a
campus. Mass notification systems can help to inform the community about
“In the end, the strategic use of technology can free
officers to work in more preventative ways,” Verrecchia says.
“Our theory is that campus public safety should work with
other campus administrations to focus on prevention programming geared to the
most critical issues facing the campus,” says Healy. “Then support the
programming with community policing.”
Community policing is essential, continues Healy, who
recommends collaborating with representatives from across the community —
students, staff, and faculty. Meet regularly, he says, to discuss problems,
perceptions, and strategies.
Training and awareness are part of community policing.
“Campus police officers are trained in the culture of higher ed — to deal with
students, faculty, and other staff,” Verrecchia says.
Important, too, is training in policing and security
procedures and the use of technology.
At the same time, the community requires training and
awareness programs. “Twenty-two-year-olds are trusting,” Verrecchia says. “They
don’t think bad things will happen to them. We have awareness programs designed
to help them take responsibility for their personal safety — lock your doors,
don’t walk alone at night, and so on.
“The point is that the police can’t do it alone. The
community must be involved. Preventing crime requires a holistic, collaborative
effort on the part of the entire community.”