Sep 112011
 
Authors: Matt Miller

In the decade following the attacks on Sept. 11, CSU students can see few changes to day-to-day security on campus. While experts say 9/11 didn’t immediately influence campus security, the national disaster acted as a catalyst prompting a retooling of procedures and an increased focus on safe practices.

Throughout the last 10 years CSU and universities across the country have evolved security through technological advancements and a focus on communication and preparedness.

“Anything anyone would notice from the outside, there weren’t any changes,” said Security on Campus, Inc. Director of Public Policy S. Daniel Carter. “There have been a lot of changes behind closed doors.”

Carter, whose non-profit organization aims to reduce campus violence nationwide, said these changes included increased testing of emergency policies and protocols and better communication with law enforcement.

At CSU these changes have taken place in four main ways: Raising educational awareness, working closer with police, the formation of the Public Safety Team and increased technology with hardware security including surveillance cameras, text message alerts and card scanning doors, said CSU Police Chief Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt.
But these changes didn’t take place right away.

“It wasn’t like 9/11 happened and we said ‘let’s put in more cameras,’” said CU-Boulder Police Public Information Officer Robert Axmacher.
He said security at CU evolved in a similar way to CSU, with an increase of communication, a better use of technology, the development of a Community Safety Operations program and more education.

CSU Spokesman and member of the Public Safety Team, Brad Bohlander, also said there weren’t any immediate responses to 9/11 in terms of safety.

“We can’t point to 9/11 and say because of that we are making changes,” Bohlander said. “But it was a milestone.”

Axmacher and Bohlander both agreed that 9/11 created a heightened discussion of security on college campuses. This discussion led to a change in how the public viewed safety.

“Significant acts of violence had not been seen on American soil and it shook people,” said CSUPD Spokeswoman Dell Rae Moellenberg. “Most people felt vulnerable and people started to look out for each other.”

Experts at CU, CSU and UNC all agreed that 9/11 instilled a willingness in the community to report anything that looked out of the ordinary.

“When people see things that don’t look right they report them,” Bohlander said. “The campus is much more aware of their safety and their surroundings.”

Heightened community awareness was one of the biggest improvements to campus safety in the immediate wake of 9/11.

“There was a slow recognition that colleges are potential targets,” Carter said. “You didn’t see changes across the board until you saw specific campus acts of violence.”

These campus acts like the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings spurred more of the drastic changes in campus security.

Carter said that 9/11 acted to lay the groundwork for more substantial security changes on campus that took place following Virginia Tech.

For example the creation of mass notification of emergencies, which come in the form of text or email messages.

“Mass notification is the greatest change in the post-9/11 world students would recognize,” Carter said.

This is one of the most notable changes CSU students can see on campus since 9/11. In the event of any emergency, students will receive an email about the potential threat, or if they have registered their mobile number, they will receive a text message.

“Ten years ago text messaging was not a way to communicate with students,” Moellenberg said.

Over the years technology has played a bigger role in keeping students safe on campus. Most buildings at CSU are equipped with camera surveillance systems, now that they are cheaper than before and all residence halls have electronic card access.

“I think technology can definitely help facilitate security on campus on multiple levels,” Moellenberg said.

Even though college campuses didn’t make drastic changes until the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, the Department of Justice was examining college campuses as vulnerable security areas years before.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services issued a report in 2005 outlining college campus public safety.

The National Summit on Campus Public Safety report says, “The aftermath of September 11, 2001 prompted the reexamination of the nation’s defenses and vulnerabilities in light of new realities.”

The report suggests three main areas for universities to focus on for campus safety: promote collaboration, operate a safe campus and strengthen operations and administration functions.

Many of the suggestions made in this report have been acted out by college campuses following Virginia Tech.

CSU refined its Public Safety Team, which had been in place in various forms since the early 2000s. The team works to communicate quickly with the correct people in case of an emergency, Bohlander said.

The 14 members on the Public Safety Team board communicate directly to CSU President Tony Frank and all other necessary emergency contacts, Bohlander said. He added that dozens and dozens of groups on campus contribute in emergency situations.

It is this group that sends out the notifications to students through text and email messages when the campus faces any sort of threat.

In the last decade Bohlander said that planning, preparation and response measures have been put in place and thoroughly practiced.
But, one area of issue can be the balancing of a free and open campus with a secure campus.

“Each community and each campus wants people to walk and have freedom and not have an excessive police state,” Rich-Goldschmidt of CSUPD said. “It can be really tricky to enforce that.”

But Carter said as long as universities are connected to national intelligence and have a police force monitoring campus, safety doesn’t have to be a balancing act.

He added that CSU’s 24-hour surveillance and 36 police officers seemed to be on par with the national average of security.

“Collectively campuses are safer,” Carter said. “They are safer post-9/11 because of lessons learned from (Virginia Tech) and the groundwork that has been made with local agencies.”

Experts at CSU, CU-Boulder and UNC agreed that through the evolution of security after 9/11 campuses are safer than they were.

“Threats are constantly evolving,” Axmacher of CU’s police department, said. “We go from initial emotional reaction, then take a more reflective view on all potential threats.”

Although it can’t always be seen on the surface, campuses have made strides in preparing for emergencies, communicating with students, local law enforcement and administration and generating an awareness on campus for safety.

“Hopefully what students will see is a sense of safety,” Bohlander said. “They can go about their day-to-day lives without having to worry about it.”

News Editor Matt Miller can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Security Changes to universities since 9/11

  • Security changes to CSU since 9/11
  • Residence Halls upgraded locks on housing facilities from
    traditional keys to prox keys, or card keys
  • A willingness to cooperate with law enforcement to report suspicious activity
  • Formalizing and practicing emergency preparedness plans.
  • A retooling of the Public Safety team
  • The use of technology through text and email notifications, and more security surveillance on campus

Security changes to CU since 9/11
*& Additional security cameras, including cameras in all residence halls

  • Restrictions on facility access
  • Development of a Community Safety Operations program and the “Shots Fired” preventative education program
  • Extensive officer training through the Crisis Intervention Team
  • Improved cooperation with state and federal agencies
  • Security changes to UNC since 9/11
  • Refinements to security policies and procedures already in place
  • Fostering of mutual-aid relationships with local, state and federal authorities
  • Participation in drills and exercises to test emergency preparedness
  • Building security at residence halls with locked doors and video surveillance
  • Reminding campus to report anything out of the ordinary
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