College campuses are a hotbed of activity (and excitement) with students and staff alike going about their daily business, but they can also be a dangerous place. With so many different people moving in and out of the campus at all hours of the day and night, there are plenty of opportunities for criminal activity to take place. Hence, it is important that you have a plan in place to keep your campus safe.
A college campus is a place where young adults are free to explore their interests and find their place in the world. It’s also a place where they can learn how to be independent, how to make decisions, and how to be responsible for themselves.
But with all that freedom comes a certain amount of risk. College campuses are full of people, which means there’s a greater chance for theft or assault—and that’s just the stuff we can see happening. There’s also cybercrime and identity theft, which means you need to protect yourself from people who may be trying to get access to your personal information or financial assets.
So what can you do? The truth is, it can be difficult to know if you need more security, or if what you have in place already is enough. That’s why we’ve created this guide with some expert-recommended measures you can take to improve your campus’ security.
- 1 Improve Lighting Around the Campus
- 2 Have An Anonymous Tip Line
- 3 Join Forces with Community Groups
- 4 Implement Gunshot Detection Technology
- 5 Enhance Parking Garage Security
- 6 Invite Students To Join The Campus Safety Committee
- 7 Have an Emergency Preparedness Plan in Place
- 8 Use Access Control Systems
- 9 Provide Resources for Personal Device Protection
- 10 Remind Students that Safety Is a Cooperative Effort
- 11 Have Guard Booths On College Perimeters
- 12 Have a Flexible Security Program
- 13 Provide Security Awareness Training
- 14 Complete an Annual Risk Assessment
- 15 Improve Communication Channels
- 16 Conduct Counseling Sessions
- 17 Create an Online Community or App
- 18 Introduce Martial Arts Focusing On Street Defence
- 19 Invest in Data Protection and Backup Solutions
- 20 Improve the Security Cameras on Campus
- 21 Involve Stakeholders In The Planning Process
Improve Lighting Around the Campus
One of the most basic ways to improve the safety on your college campus is to make sure that there is adequate lighting in all areas. This will help deter crime and make it easier for authorities to spot intruders.
In addition to making sure that there are plenty of lights along any paths between buildings and parking lots, make sure that there are plenty of lights placed inside buildings as well. This is especially important when you’re dealing with dorms or other areas where people go at night (such as libraries).
It’s also important that you have a reliable system in place for replacing burned-out bulbs or fixing broken ones so that your students can always see where they’re going!
Have An Anonymous Tip Line
In a world where students and staff can be reluctant to report concerning behavior, anonymous tip lines are an important tool in keeping campuses safe. Anonymous reporting enables students to feel safe and comfortable about sharing their concerns with the school.
A system that allows people to report suspicious activity without fear of retribution is essential for fostering a culture of trust and openness between the school community and security staff.
In many cases, a student might not have enough information on which to report an incident or crime directly but may be able to provide enough detail for the school to investigate further as a result of their anonymous report. This can help prevent crimes from happening in the first place or catch perpetrators after they’ve already committed these crimes against others or themselves.
An anonymous tip line also allows students who may have been victimized themselves by sexual assault or harassment the opportunity and confidence necessary before making a formal complaint against someone else which may deter them otherwise due to fear of retaliation or not being believed among other reasons such as having poor experiences with authorities due to past experiences involving police officers themselves (which unfortunately happens often).
Join Forces with Community Groups
In addition to the core functions of law enforcement, there are several aspects of campus safety that can be enhanced by forming partnerships with community groups.
Community groups such as neighborhood watch programs and even local businesses can serve as eyes and ears on campuses—notifying authorities when anything suspicious occurs.
Implement Gunshot Detection Technology
Gunshot detection systems can help keep campuses secure by alerting authorities when gunshots are detected.
The systems use technology to detect the noise of gunfire and then isolate the location of the sound so it can be reported immediately to the police or other relevant parties who can respond accordingly.
While these devices aren’t new—they’ve been used in other areas like hospitals and schools for years—they have recently become more affordable for colleges looking for ways to improve campus security without breaking their budgets.
Enhance Parking Garage Security
You can help keep your campus safer by making sure that the parking garage has the proper security measures in place. Parking garages are a common target for thieves and other criminals because they are often poorly lit, have few security cameras, and are poorly monitored.
Additionally, most parking garages have a high number of entrances and exits which makes it easy for criminals to get away quickly after committing a crime.
In order to prevent these types of crimes from occurring on your campus, you should make sure that each entrance has an alarm system installed so that when someone unauthorized enters the facility it will sound an alarm alerting people nearby that there is an unauthorized entry.
This will give them time to call law enforcement before anything happens inside or outside of the building so they can respond quickly with officers who can apprehend any suspects who may be in sight as well as secure all entrances during this time period until they arrive at the scene.
Invite Students To Join The Campus Safety Committee
A campus safety committee is a group of university representatives and faculty that work together to formulate ways to improve safety on campus.
The committee can be formed by either the administration or by students themselves, but it’s important for everyone to have a voice in these discussions.
There are many benefits associated with having such a group:
- A joint effort between faculty and students will result in more informed decisions about how best to keep everyone on campus safe.
- Students are often better able than administrators at communicating their needs and concerns regarding campus safety issues. Having them involved in an official capacity allows the administration to hear what those needs are from people who actually live there full time (and aren’t just passing through), which means they’ll be better able to address them when they arise!
- When students feel like their voices are heard, they’re more likely to stick around long enough for those changes—which could make all the difference if one day something happens where someone needs help right away.
Have an Emergency Preparedness Plan in Place
One of the best ways to keep students safe is by making sure that they know what to do in an emergency. This can be done by creating a readily accessible Emergency Preparedness Plan that has detailed information on how to respond to various types of emergencies, such as fire or medical situations.
In addition to the basics (call 911, stay calm), it’s important that these plans include any additional steps specific to your college campus. For example, if there’s a risk of people falling into an open manhole or sewer grate downtown where you live and work, your plan should include instructions for reporting those hazards and removing them as quickly as possible.
If there are large numbers of homeless people who regularly sleep near campus buildings at night—and this isn’t something most visitors would notice unless they were looking out for them—you might want those locations included too so that students can avoid them while walking around late at night.
Furthermore, the more visible these plans are throughout campus life—from signs posted near emergency exits all the way down through flyers handed out during orientation sessions—the greater impact they’ll have on improving security measures across all levels within each department (elevators versus stairwells).
With easy access points like these available everywhere from classrooms upstairs down onto floors below ground level highway overpasses outside city limits etc., everyone knows exactly where they’ll go when disaster strikes without needing additional instruction from first responders once panic sets in due course.
Use Access Control Systems
Access control systems are used for controlling access to sensitive data, such as financial information or research findings that must remain confidential. They can also be used to monitor entrances and exits from campus buildings, allowing you to determine who enters and exits at a given time of day.
Access control systems are also useful in keeping track of students’ attendance at events hosted by departments on campus.
For example, if you have an event scheduled for a room in your department but don’t want everyone invited just walking right into it without registering first (or even just getting stuck outside), then an access control system would allow you greater flexibility over who has access during these events while maintaining the security needed during them too!
Provide Resources for Personal Device Protection
You can’t attend college these days without at least a laptop or tablet because they are required for courses. Combine that with smartphones (which essentially every student has), smartwatches, Apple TVs, desktop computers, etc., and every student has an average of 2-4, sometimes more, smart electronics.
Their entire lives are on these devices, everything from their coursework to their emails, to their online banking, to their medical information, and so much more. However, how well protected do we think their devices really are?
The truth is that although current college students largely grew up with technology, the vast majority don’t apply strong cybersecurity to keep their devices and information safe.
So, I think that the best way to improve security on campus, specifically cybersecurity, is to provide education and resources for personal device protection.
Students need to be taught how and why to take the necessary steps to protect their digital presence. They need to be taught how to spot cyberattacks, what to do when they occur, and how to prevent them in the first place.
Remind Students that Safety Is a Cooperative Effort
Here is a helpful suggestion from Dr. Peter M. Gigliotti, founder, and CEO of CrisisComm LLC, a firm specializing in crisis communications, served 28 years as Executive Director for University Communications and Marketing at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. While at Shippensburg, he worked closely with the University Police in providing information during many crises, such as assaults, and supported the police in complying with requirements of the Clery Act including timely warnings and emergency notifications.
Every student needs to understand from the first day they walk on campus, or earlier, that their safety is a cooperative effort between them and the university. This needs to be repeated at orientations, in joint meetings with parents, in residence halls, and throughout the academic year.
While material with safety tips is given to students, many fail to take the time to read it which may place them at risk. I suggest that when they are accepted or when they start their first year, they take an online quiz about safety.
This quiz would include basic questions about walking in pairs, not wearing headphones while walking after dark, and include questions specifically tailored to their university. If they fail, the university should provide them with additional one-on-one information to help keep them safe.
The university should also allow the parents to take the same quiz so they can reinforce proper safety procedures with their students. They, too, have not only a stake in their student’s safety but remain one of the main influencers on their behavior.
Have Guard Booths On College Perimeters
Dave King gives this helpful suggestion for increasing security on your college campus. Mr. King has 31 years of experience in the perimeter security industry and is a sought-after consultant for government-mandated post- 9/11 security upgrades. He is currently VP of B.I.G. Enterprises and is a recognized authority on perimeter control, security, and surveillance.
Colleges and universities need security guard booths. While some people only associate security checkpoints with prisons and military compounds, this is far from the truth.
Booths for academic environments can be designed to stand out or blend in, depending on the security strategy for the campus. Prefab units can be pre-wired for sophisticated communications systems with critical offices throughout the campus.
While sensors, fences, and barriers are important to overall security, the guard booth is the only major piece of equipment that is used every day. The purpose of the guard booth is to give security officers an advantage against potential threats, creating a more coordinated response than typically seen with just regular guard patrols.
Modern booths are ergonomic and functional, made from high-quality materials and incorporating HVAC for adequate climate control. Guard booths and shelters must be configuration-friendly as they generally house monitors, gate controls, duress buttons, computers, and various site-specific electronics and surveillance equipment.
Of course, guard booths and shelters must also be considered from an architectural and aesthetic standpoint. They serve as visual deterrents for potential shooters and as visual statements, defining the image of the school.
Few people would feel comfortable staying in a hotel without a deadbolt on the door. In the same way, a guard booth provides both practical security and a feeling of confidence for all students, faculty, and staff.
Every campus should conduct a security profile and evaluation every other year. As technology changes and social patterns shift, colleges must be ready to adapt.
Have a Flexible Security Program
If you are concerned about the security on your campus, consider the needs of all parties involved.
Your program should be flexible enough to accommodate each individual’s needs and preferences. For example, some students may want to use multi-factor authentication while others may not like it. Some faculty members might not feel comfortable with facial recognition software in their classrooms but would rather have an access card system installed; this would allow them privacy while still keeping everyone safe from potential threats.
As long as your security measures take into account everyone’s wants or needs, they are likely to be effective at making sure everyone is safe while still respecting their rights as individuals.
Provide Security Awareness Training
In my opinion, Security isn’t simply for security personnel to comprehend. Everyone at higher education institutions should get actionable security awareness training.
Faculty and staff, for example, who engage with students more often than security officials, must know how to react when threats occur.
This might involve assigning emergency response responsibilities to employees so that they know what to do in the event of a large-scale crisis, or behavioral threat assessment training for professors so that they can spot the signals of imminent violence.
Students are in the most significant position to enhance safety and security on campus. Excessive drinking and sexual assault were reported as top student concerns in the CollegeStats.org study. Students’ ability to protect each other from such risks may be improved with proper instruction.
Complete an Annual Risk Assessment
An annual risk assessment is an important part of managing security on college campuses. This is a process that involves identifying threats to your campus, and vulnerabilities to your campus and students, staff, property, reputation, and environment.
Threats – A threat refers to something that could cause harm or loss at some point in time. Identify all potential threats by asking “what could happen?” Some examples include cyber attacks (targeted against computers), physical safety incidents (which include fire), natural disasters (such as hurricanes), and social unrest/disturbances (like riots).
Vulnerabilities – A vulnerability refers to any weakness in security measures that may allow a threat entry into your organization’s systems or processes.
In addition to listing all possible ways a threat could exploit weaknesses within your current setup at hand, also consider how these vulnerabilities could increase over time if left unaddressed.
Improve Communication Channels
In my opinion, due to a lack of protocols, the greatest difficulty in universities is communication breakdown. Errors and injuries may arise if a restraining order is filed against an individual and only one security guard is notified.
Everyone involved in campus security must have access to a centralized system for notifications and updates. Everyone, from security guards to the chief of campus security, must be informed of security regulations and incidents that must be reported. Also, campus security must be notified.
Threats should be communicated to students, otherwise, they may not take precautions. Once instances have been evaluated, they should be communicated with students so that they can be more vigilant and reduce potential dangers.
By documenting incidents and sharing information, your college can develop paper trails that can be used as evidence if other issues arise. A school can reduce risk by documenting and analyzing incidents that have occurred on its grounds.
Conduct Counseling Sessions
To prevent student-on-others attacks, I believe we need to have more counseling, where the college speaks to the student saying, We trust you, we’re proud of you, and we’re here if you need help. I think a lot of the time, students feel like they’re not being heard, and that’s why they act out on a large scale.
For students to feel personally safe, schools might offer self-defense courses. That way, whether it’s at college or somewhere else, students feel like they have the tools to protect themselves.
I remember in elementary school, non-profit organizations and police officers visited each year to teach students what to do for kidnapping, fires, injuries, and other emergency situations. That kind of reassurance always helps.
Create an Online Community or App
Just like the popular neighborhood watch app Nextdoor, there can be an app designed to provide safety-related services around the campus. I have heard of universities where they offer services after sunset like safety escort. In case you are afraid of walking to your room or someplace else, you can request someone to walk with you to that place.
Once a good number of students connect to this app, you can allow them to create rooms where they can discuss safety-related issues. Students can create their own patrol group or share their thoughts about which areas are not getting enough attention from the local authority.
If everyone starts reporting local incidents around the campus, things are bound to improve. At the very least, most of the students who are worried about their safety will learn about the areas they should avoid.
Students can also team up to find out where they can buy pepper spray or similar products. You can think about carrying pocket knives as well but make sure to discuss it with the local campus authority.
The app can also include information about the local security office or campus police. I believe just having all this information in the palm of your hand can give you some sense of safety.
Introduce Martial Arts Focusing On Street Defence
To improve security on college campuses, introduce martial arts that specifically cater to defending yourself on the street against multiple attackers and armed threats like guns, knives, sticks, etc. Krav Maga is a great example.
The biggest advantage of Krav Maga is that it is not designed to win points in a tournament or deal with just one person while moving around in a ring. It is meant to save your life on the street. So, apart from arranging for better security, teach the students how to defend themselves.
Give them lifelong skills. Instead of feeding them fish just once, teach them how to fish.
The onus of a secure campus is a cumulative responsibility, just like security in a free society is. Yes, law enforcement is there to protect us and deal with grave situations, but they cannot reach everywhere within seconds. The only person who can save you within seconds is you.
Plus, engaging in intense physical activity results in sharper reflexes, a more aware mind, and a confident personality, improving students’ academic performance and promoting overall development.
Further, if the would-be perpetrator is going to be from within the campus, physical activities like martial arts give the person an outlet to release stress and frustration, which ultimately results in a lower crime rate.
Invest in Data Protection and Backup Solutions
Cyber threats cause significant issues, sometimes even interrupting whole education ecosystems. The majority of college campuses keep using outdated systems.
With accessible network systems of college campuses, a high amount of personal data and research data provide a comprehensive and penetrable attack surface, putting them at risk of different cyber attacks.
The best option to defend college campuses from data loss is to invest in data protection and backup solutions!
Another solution is to pay attention to the main cybersecurity rules:
- Install antivirus, antispam, and network security system (firewall), and update them frequently.
- Keep their operating systems and applications up-to-date.
- Update their browsers regularly to comply with current browser security settings and block pop-ups.
- Ignore emails from unknown senders and stay away from opening them.
- Keep away from opening questionable attachments, links, or sites.
- Before downloading free programs, files, or software, they need to review each application deeply.
- Always create strong passwords and remember to change them once per month.
Following these rules decreases the risk of getting college computers affected by viruses or other harmful software.
Nevertheless, nothing can provide 100% security. For that reason, it is essential to backup personal data in different locations, ideally following the 3-2-1 backup rule.
Improve the Security Cameras on Campus
The best way to make campuses more secure is to always have all the security cameras in working condition. If an incident occurs, it is critical to understand what occurred in order to eliminate the threat and take preventative actions to ensure the problem does not occur again.
This is why, in addition to having campus security cameras, the technology should be updated on a regular basis for the most effective student protection.
While many people think of security cameras as a way for campus employees to watch students and visitors, they can frequently be more useful tools for increasing and documenting good human preventive efforts.
Campus administrators can employ cameras to spot-check and document that staff members are correctly positioned and/or patrolling different locations. While in-person evaluations are still recommended, combining various methods is often more beneficial.
Involve Stakeholders In The Planning Process
It is critical to share your security plan and related efforts with your stakeholders. Present yourself to all new students, parents, faculty, and personnel. Tell them how the plan works.
The manner in which information is presented to them can be critical to the program’s success. Explain the presence of a camera and an access control point. Include them in your strategy.
Communicate that security is present to help protect the university and keep students safe. Explain the difference between convenience and security. Finally, seek constructive feedback and solicit their support and advocacy.
Security solutions differ, and risks can shift independently and at random. So paying attention and being aware of what is going on in the community is critical. Attend student, faculty, and staff meetings and pay close attention to the issues at hand. There is no substitute for foresight.
It is also essential to make planning a continuous process. Security planning is cyclical in nature, rather than linear. As a result, you must constantly re-examine your plan, beginning with step one. Setting milestones and benchmarks is also a good idea so you can track your progress and be accountable to your stakeholders.
Because budgets are typically limited, never underestimate the importance of expense forecasting. At some point, you may need to back up your plan and demonstrate that it is not wasteful or extravagant. So do your research and be ready.
And now, the conclusion.
No matter what way you choose to improve campus security, it’s important to make sure that the changes don’t have a negative impact on the learning environment. If you can make improvements to campus security while also keeping students engaged and focused on their studies, then you’re doing great!
Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand how to keep your college campus safe without making things feel too strict or limiting. The key is to strike a balance between safety and freedom—and if you can do it right, then everyone wins!
With all of the tips we’ve covered, you should be well-equipped to improve security on your college campus. But there are always new things to learn, and we hope this guide has been useful for you in that regard.
Be sure to follow up with a full evaluation after you have implemented these changes to ensure they are working out well for you and your students.
PS: A special thanks to all experts who contributed their tips on how to improve security on college campuses! We really appreciate it! If you know of any other ways to make college campuses safer that could add value to this list, please let us know.