Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)

Columbia College Chicago: Testing New ID Checkpoints

Columbia College Chicago’s campus saw three reported high-risk crimes in the month of March, including one shooting and one stabbing, which resulted in Chicago Police Department (CPD) investigations. The individuals allegedly involved in the crimes are not affiliated with the college, according to the college-wide crime alerts. The crimes account for three of the estimated 29 crimes committed since early January in popular areas of the college’s urban Chicago campus. During the same time period last year, the college recorded 24 crimes on its campus.

The most frequent crimes include 13 instances of theft from buildings and individuals, six instances of assault and battery, and three instances of criminal damage of vehicles and property, according to the data set.

“There are spikes and valleys in crime across the city,” says Ron Sodini, associate vice president of Campus Safety & Security. “The city is very large, and we are one of the most safe police districts in the city.”

Sodini says college-wide alerts are sent when the college determines a situation may pose a continuing threat to the campus and its students. He adds that Columbia only has authority and jurisdiction over its own properties, so CPD handles instances that occur on sidewalks and streets and communicates with the college when needed.

“We are a campus security department, but we are not a police department,” Sodini says.

IN-PERSON ACCESS CONTROL

In a recent push to enhance campus security, the college has begun testing an access control pilot program requiring students and faculty to show identification before entering a campus-owned building.

The program began in late January. After receiving positive feedback from the college community, the college extended the program on March 1 to additional campus facilities. Sodini says the reason for choosing the initial buildings included in the program was the layout of their lobbies: because they had one entrance and high-volume traffic of students, faculty, staff and visitors.

John Green, chair of the Theatre Department, says the program is a good first step and he is pleased with how Sodini has requested feedback from faculty, staff and students about the new process. He adds that his only concern is checking IDs will not fully prevent theft.

Sodini says the college is evaluating where to next expand the program. The program faces logistical challenges, like layouts of lobbies, high traffic volume and multiple entrances.

Columbia’s security team also patrols the campus with one security vehicle, by foot, or on bike or Segway, depending on the weather.

“We do provide a presence on the street, but our authority by law is limited,” Sodini says. “It is important that everyone realizes they have a role in safety and security.”

ADDITIONAL ENHANCEMENTS

To bring decades of police experience to campus, the college began recruiting retired police officers in the fall of 2015 to join the security team. So far, the college has recruited eight part-time security officers with backgrounds from CPD, University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Chicago.

Security teams from local colleges, such as Columbia, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University, Roosevelt University and Robert Morris University, gather about every two months to share and present new practices, ideas and security issues in the area, according to Sodini.

This information is excerpted from The Columbia Chronicle, a student-produced publication of Columbia College Chicago (www.columbiachronicle.com) and used with permission.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.

About the Author

Lauren Kostiuk is a reporter for The Columbia Chronicle, a student-produced publication of Columbia College Chicago (www.columbiachronicle.com).

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