Jan 312007
 
Authors: Brandon Lowrey
UNLOCKED: Collegian reporters investigate the building security on campus

University takes strides to seal security breaches

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While some CSU officials, in an effort to thwart campus thefts, are advocating an expensive switch to electronic locks for campus buildings, police at the University of Colorado-Boulder said Wednesday that it would still be a far from a perfect system.

CU-Boulder has switched more than a quarter of its doors to timed locks or keycards, said CU Police Department Cpl. Jim Manzanares, who is in charge of CU’s security division. But the new technology has created new problems and is powerless to fix some old ones.

CSU and CU aren’t alone in their struggles to balance accessibility and security.

“I would tell you – it’s probably nationwide,” Manzanares said, adding that the key to a successful system is rooted in individual responsibility. “There’s really no substitute for being personally safe and taking care of your own things.”

CSU Police Department Chief Dexter Yarbrough agreed in a written statement released Wednesday: “All individuals on an open campus such as ours are responsible for helping to keep our community safe and secure.”

While CSU’s upgrade to electronic locks is in a fledgling stage, 25 to 30 percent of CU’s main entry doors operate on timed locks or key cards.

There, campus officials can program the timed locks to account for special, after-hours events or early closures – an opportunity for human error.

A computerized key card system allows officials to enable and disable specific key cards quickly and easily. But it’s expensive.

Both electronic systems can fail and break, and neither system could keep students, faculty and staff from propping open any of the 364 outside doors on the Boulder campus.

Lt. Brad Wiesley, a spokesman for the CU Police Department, said there is no such thing as a perfect system.

“Even with a totally automated, perfectly designed system, there are still ways to defeat it,” Wiesley said. “The only way to really enhance security is to have the doors locked 24 hours a day and require card access” – a system in which going to class would make airport security during the holiday season seem tame.

On Wednesday, the Chemistry Department Chair Tony Rappe and some students seemed unnerved about the Collegian’s report that the Chemistry Building isn’t secure after hours.

Collegian reporters were able to enter the Chemistry Building through an unlocked door about a year ago and again, three nights in a row, earlier this month. Once inside, the reporters had unhindered access to laboratories packed with chemicals and computers.

The labs are generally left open for undergrads and graduate students to check on experiments, day or night.

This system would work fine if the outer doors were kept locked like they’re supposed to be, Rappe said. The campus facilities department is in charge of keeping the doors locked and staff members in the building don’t have proper keys to lock down the building, he said.

While computers, chemicals and electronics might have some value to the general public, some of the more complex, niche machinery probably wouldn’t appeal to thieves, he said.

Victoria Macias, a freshman natural sciences and Spanish double major, takes some lab courses in the science buildings that Collegian reporters were able to access.

“That’s a little weird,” she said about the unlocked doors. “It makes me feel a little unsafe if I ever had to” check on experiments late at night.

To see how an electronic key system similar to that of CU’s would look here, read tomorrow’s Collegian for continuing coverage.

Editor in Chief Brandon Lowrey can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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