Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)

Safety First



Crime is an ongoing reality on college campuses throughout the United States. In 2010, 92,695 crimes were reported to college and university campus police, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime. Of these reported crimes, 97 percent were property crimes while the remaining three percent were violent crimes.

While there will always be threats, there are many precautions a facility manager can take to secure both people and property. From “crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)” to products that deter the “bad guys,” along with a well-educated, aware community, a college campus can become a safe haven.

That haven starts at the campus’s front door. “A strong, celebrated entrance is important,” insists Wade MacAdam, consultant and CPTED expert. Defining an entrance sets a tone and claims territory, both important elements of CPTED. A strong entrance also lends a semi-private air to the environment.

Actually privatizing the streets that run through a campus would be nice, but most times it’s not possible. Modifying those streets, however, is relatively easy and effective. “Narrowing the road changes the character of the area, calms traffic and slows everyone down,” says Bruce Ramm, owner, Security Design Concepts. Roads can be narrowed by removing parking and widening sidewalks, while a change in paving materials informs people that they’ve entered a new space. A monument that identifies the school can create that celebrated entrance.

While effective, this approach may not be practical or available to schools in urban centers. In this case bollards offer a solution. “The University of Southern California is surrounded by major throughways on all sides and there have been pedestrian accidents,” reports Carlos Gonzalez, bollards department supervisor, Calpipe Industries Incorporated. Bollards at intersections keep out-of-control cars off of the sidewalk.

Bollards are also effective in low-speed areas like parking lots and can be equipped with LEDs to enhance lighting and define pathways. “They’re effective anywhere there’s a mix of pedestrians and vehicles,” says Gonzalez. If your school houses a high-risk target, heavy-duty bollards can stop a determined criminal driving an armored vehicle.

Shutting the Shortcut

Directing traffic, both foot and automobile, is another important aspect of campus safety. “You want people to enter and exit outdoor spaces and buildings through well-observed areas,” says Ramm. Unfortunately, designated entryways are not always the most convenient, which leads people — especially college students — to look for shortcuts.

This is where a good fence comes into play. Not designed to keep people in or out, a fence’s true purpose is control traffic flow and remove the shortcuts. While both experts agree on the importance of fencing, opinions on materials differ. Ramm states that traditional fencing or a dense hedgerow could work to define space and remove shortcuts, while MacAdam favors ornamental wrought iron. “You want to be able to see through the fence and identify potential threats,” he says. MacAdam does feel that vegetation has its place but must be well trimmed. Bushes should be kept to no higher than two feet, while trees branches should start no lower than six. “You want to be able to see a person’s hands so you can judge their intent,” he says. “That way you can tell if they are friend or foe.”

Shedding Light

Perimeters and pathways should also be well lit. Mark Dean, vice president of Marketing and Business Development, Sternberg Lighting, suggests choosing lamps that have a high color-rendering index for this job. “They let you easily identify the color of a person’s clothes, hair and eyes, which is crucial when describing a threat.” He also stresses the importance of the uniformity of light. “Think of the sun shining down evenly bathing everything in light,” he says. “The goal should be the same for a pathway. There shouldn’t be pools of darkness.”

Dean also reports that color temperature is important as well. “Studies show that 4100 Kelvin is the color of moonlight and is comfortable for the human eye,” he says, “although there is a trend to go warmer, around 2700 Kelvin, which is more like daylight.”

While people usually think of the lamp as the most valuable part of a lighting fixture, the pole is getting smarter — and safer — too. Sternberg Lighting offers a product called Intellistreets that features speakers, image sensors, digital signage and a push-to-talk emergency call system. These smart poles offer more security, but they come at a price.

“Right now they’re rather expensive — $50,000 for a loaded pole — but that price will come down about 25 percent in the next year,” says Dean. Still, St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN, installed the poles as part of a public/private venture. “If you sell ad space on the digital banner you could easily pay for the equipment within a year,” says Dean. “You have to think about the return on investment.”

Fast Park

Parking garages, particularly ones with slow-moving roll-up doors, also serve as easy targets for determined criminals. “We had old-style steel parking garage doors that were extremely slow, which compromised our security,” according to Lance Lunsway, director of Transportation/Parking, Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech). Because the doors were so slow the school had no choice but to leave them open during high-traffic hours, which Lunsway calls “our one vulnerability.”

The University of Southern California had the same problem with their garage doors. “All unmanned parking structure doorways have to deal with piggybacking,” says Carey Drayton, chief of Campus Security. “This happens when intruders time the interval between when the vehicle passes through the doorway and the door closes, and then they slip into the building,”

Both schools found a solution with high-speed rigid rolling doors, which move at a swift 60 inches per second. The fast door speed allows uninterrupted traffic flow with no time for piggybacking. “The speed of the doors makes people think twice about piggybacking and discourages them from using our parking structures as possible crime sites,” says Drayton.

All Eyes on Deck

While fast doors, smart lamp poles and sturdy bollards all help prevent crime, the biggest deterrent is an involved, aware population. “You need trusted allies in a space particularly when school is not in session,” insists MacAdam. During those slow times he suggests hosting a variety of activities like weddings, tai chi groups and bicycle rodeos to keep the campus looking busy. “A lot of burglaries happen on the weekend and after hours. Events like these bring in extra eyes and help deter crime.”

This article originally appeared in the issue of .