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Campus Security Revisited

After Monday's mass-murders at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, many are questioning campus security.

What could campus security have done differently to prevent the savage taking of so many lives? That question led me to think about the jobs of campus security guards.

Will the Virginia Tech tragedies spur new or different campus security jobs across the country? And what are campus security jobs like--what are the salaries and working conditions?

A story on FoxNews.com says experts agree campus security will be change because of Monday's events.

According to the article:

But early critics are already saying that Virginia Tech's response to the shootings is already revealing what many feared about college security.

"The police had no gun, they had no idea what had taken place. They should've gotten state and local police to cordon off the area, called local radio and TV stations, put a cop at each building. That's primitive law enforcement," said Steve Minshall, a sociopsychologist, security expert and former cop. “These campus police are nice guys, I have coffee with them sometimes, they do the job they should do, but they're not prepared for anything of this magnitude, by any means."

Ed Manzki, a Naperville, Ill., lawyer who won $1 million from Knox College for a family whose freshman daughter was murdered by a fellow student in a campus building, said that the bottom line for university boards seems to be protecting the school's image and income—not the students or staff.

"It's like an epidemic of crime on college campuses. It's something you don't hear about because people don't want to talk about it," he said. "When something's going to get cut from the budget, they're not going to cut athletics or academic programs. Oftentimes it's security programs that are the losers—and as a result the kids. When you're paying security guards like $8 to $11 an hour on a part-time basis, you can't expect to get the most qualified people."

"Most of the time they're trying to get away with the minimum security," said Craig Lawrence, director of operations for United Risk Partners, a security company in Elk Grove Village, Ill.

'Going Back to Being Campus Security'

A National Review column by Eli Lehrer suggests future changes should address the campus police mindset:

Instead of a police mindset devoted to protecting the community from crime, campus police would do better to develop a security mindset devoted to controlling access. They should go back to being “campus security.” Good security guards can play an important role in preventing trouble: at their best, they can know all “regulars” by sight, question outsiders firmly but well, and pay special attention to those who behave suspiciously. Good security also involves planning for both shelter-in-place — “everyone, stay inside and lock your door” — and evacuation plans. College campuses can do these things. Cities, for the most part, can’t. Although some of the planning requires a good mind for logistics, most of this is simpler than ordinary police work.

Securing the Future

One of the FoxNews sources suggests campus security officials are underpaid. According to PayScale salary surveys, the median salary for a police or sheriff's patrol officer employed by a college or university is $35,856.

Maybe campus police do need better pay. After 9/11, there was talk about the low pay earned by Transportation Security Administration officials. Increasing their wages, the logic went, would help ensure they did a better job sifting out terrorists. Perhaps that logic could apply today, to campus security.

And maybe schools need to invest more money in campus security. After Monday, many colleges and universities are considering beefing up their emergency-alert technologies and procedures. Such changes could mean more jobs in technology, to advance and improve alert systems.

This is mostly speculation.

Whatever changes come, job-related or otherwise, may they restore some safety to all American campuses--our youth deserve at least that much.

Any thoughts?
-kc

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