Safety & Security (Prepare and Be Aware)

Campus Security Tailored to a Budget

Campus Security Budget


Some colleges and universities can afford to spend millions of dollars on state-of-the-art physical security technologies, sworn police services, conventional security services and crime preventing architectural designs. That’s about as much campus security as money can buy.

But what if your school can’t afford all of that? What is the best way to spend limited security funds? There are several affordable paths that colleges and universities can follow.

First, they can draft students, faculty and staff into a cooperative security effort. Second, they can upgrade the image of campus security. Third, they put new technologies to use. Finally, they can begin to focus on something called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or CPTED (pronounced sep-ted).

Security is Everyone’s Responsibility

Over a period of years, security professionals have come to discover that security and safety programs work more effectively when everyone participates.

That isn’t to say that everyone must become a security officer. The security director and staff will still organize the program, patrol the campus and respond to emergencies, but they can use the eyes, ears and occasional help of students and staff.

“The idea is to change the culture of awareness on campus,” says Paul Timm, president of Lemont, IL-based RETA Security, Inc. “Typically, someone gives an orientation talk and spends a few minutes on security. That’s not good enough.

“We need to go at this through the Greek system, through classes, posters, talks from residential advisors, and other kinds of communications with students and faculty. There are many communication tools on campus, and we should use them all — not constantly, but regularly.”

These communications should aim to raise awareness that everyone needs to pay attention to events on campus and to report unusual behavior. The Department of Homeland Security uses a phrase that describes the concept of being aware: “If you see something, say something.”

There are specific messages to deliver as well. Date rape, for instance, is a major problem on college campuses, and it is frequently fueled by alcohol. Freshman college students — men and women — away from home and on their own for the first time often drink too much and fall into sex without thinking, without asking and with neither party saying yes or no.

Regular warnings to students about the possible crimes that drinking too much can lead to may help some students avoid trouble.

Finally, some campus security departments have formed groups of student volunteers willing to provide escorts for students who might otherwise walk back to a residence hall alone at night. That can help keep paid security officers on patrol.


“I think we also have to upgrade the respect that security departments receive,” Timm adds. “How can that be done? Do we tell officers to carry themselves better? No. Respect begins when the administration gives security people the respect they deserve.

“Culture change about campus security requires administrators to change their cultural view of security officers and the work they do.

“And, of course, the public safety director needs to maintain or perhaps boost standards and the level of professionalism in the department.”

Mobile Apps

Timm also recommends using today’s technology to improve security. Mobile apps with security functions can help in that effort.

“Suppose you notice that a couple of lights have burned out in the parking lot,” Timm says. “There is an app that you can use to send a report to the campus maintenance department.”

Other apps available today can call the police and message friends and family during an emergency. LifeLine Response, one of these apps, automates emergency calls. The user places his or her thumb over a button on the phone. Releasing the button calls the police. The message to the police includes the sender’s name and contact information plus GPS location data.

There are apps that will imprint time and date stamps on photos that can then be sent to the police to document emergencies or criminal activities.

Other apps enable users to send tips to the police.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED, offers some surprising benefits.

“The basic CPTED premise is that through the effective use and design and management of the built environment, there can be a reduction in the opportunity and fear of crime,” writes Randy Atlas, president and owner of Atlas Safety and Security Design in his book 21st Century Security and CPTED.

In short, CPTED is a landscape and building design strategy that includes safety and security provisions. Why is CPTED part of an affordable security plan? Because funding for CPTED is already in a campus construction budget. “Ninety to ninety-five percent of CPTED techniques are already funded,” Atlas says.

CPTED critics contend that CPTED, or construction that incorporates security measures, will turn a campus in to a fortress, something no one really wants. “That’s a misperception,” Atlas says. “CPTED is a natural, achievable and reasonable process and solution. And it’s paid for. You already have the money and staff for capital improvements, for a new science building, to repair and renovate the stadium and to re-roof several of your buildings. You have maintenance budgets for door hardware and campus lighting.”

Two simple and secure CPTED measures that you can implement tomorrow include trimming trees and shrubs. “Trim tree branches to 8 feet or higher and cut bushes down to 32 inches or lower,” Atlas says.

The campus walkways and buildings will look better with trimmed shrubs and trees. Security will improve, too. The tree branches will no longer obscure campus lighting, and good lighting discourages crime. Likewise, shrubs trimmed to 32 inches or lower will look neater, while making them too small for a person to hide behind.

Two major CPTED design principles that illustrate the concept’s safety and security focus are natural surveillance and natural access control.

Research as well as common sense tells us that a criminal is likely to move to another location if he or she fears being seen and getting caught. Natural surveillance designs use lighting, landscaping, large windows and long and direct sightlines to create pleasing environments where everyone can see everyone else. Many criminals will avoid such environments.

On a college campus, natural access control uses design rather than high stone walls. Intelligently placed landscaping, walkways, signage, lighting and low, attractive fences can guide the movements of pedestrian and vehicles onto and across a college campus. Clearly identified areas of public and private access discourage criminals from entering, or at least give them pause. Add design elements that also promote natural surveillance, and security will improve another notch.

These are the components of an affordable security program: security awareness across the campus community, respect for the security department, appropriate mobile apps and CPTED renovations and new designs.

After applying these ideas, many schools will find that the security budget has money left over to buy and install a couple of cameras to monitor sensitive areas of the campus.

Don’t misunderstand: an affordable security program still needs a strategic design and professional execution to be effective. Don’t leave out the professional component.

Every college or university is responsible for providing a safe campus for students, faculty and staff alike. Those that don’t do this risk being held liable for security lapses. Effective security protects the people and property on your campus — and it also protects a school’s reputation and financial integrity.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .