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As we begin the new school year, millions of college students will be headed back to school with the intent of “re-opened learning”. This means more in-person classes without many restrictions.

University police or security officers are facing a challenge – to provide the right amount of protection while managing an increase in the student body population. There are several key areas that security teams need to focus on in order to ensure minimized risk for serious incidents this school year.

Campuses are Facing Staggering Statistics

School safety is the number one priority. However, when you look at the statistics of crime and violence for colleges and higher education, you can see why security teams are looking for ways to improve their levels of safety and security. In 2019, there were nearly 28,000 reported crimes across 10,000 university campuses in the United States – 50% of these crimes were physical or sexual assaults. University security has to do better to ensure schools are safe.

As staggering as those numbers are, sadly those are just the ones that are reported. Of all reported crimes, 20% are never reported to college safety officers or local authorities. In a recent study on workplace violence, 44% of teachers say they do not feel safe in schools due to concerns with potential violence.

The needs of ensuring safety and security sets the bar high for campus security. Now, with growing fears of the pandemic and concerns of returning to regular school classes, there is an increased level of risk for potential security incidents.

In a recent report by the CDC last year, 40% of people surveyed said they have suffered some level of mental illness as a result of the pandemic and isolation. These effects do not always go away and could have an impact on how students feel as they return to schools in the Fall. All these factors must play into how campus security teams prepare to protect and keep schools safe.

Planning for the Future: Security in higher Education is Evolving

In a recent Corporate Security Report, security professionals in education were asked what their top priorities were for 2021. 86% of those surveyed said they planned to implement better incident management processes and tools.

With many of the threats and incidents happening both on and off campus, security needs to ensure a fast response time and accurate incident reporting – all to help local authorities and internal security teams to quickly resolve issues. Furthermore, having a standardized incident reporting solution helps establish better data analytics that can help uncover proactive ways to mitigate the risk of future incidents.

Additionally, 79% said they will be improving their visitor management process and tools that are associated with tracking visitors on campuses.

Proper security processes in colleges and universities include monitoring solutions, like cameras and motion sensors. Coupled with access control solutions, security teams can prevent unauthorized access.

With a number of visitors that come in and out of the campus, having a real-time list of expected visitors and a list of unauthorized visitors can be a literal lifesaver in security.

Technology Continues to help reduce Risk for Campus Security

Looking at the existing technologies that exist in colleges and universities, there are many that are designed to monitor and limit access for those that are unauthorized. Yet, more is gained from additional tools.

Security forces are adopting mobile solutions that track patrols and tours, ensuring that their guards are hitting checkpoints and checking the safety of critical high risk areas.

Most importantly is the ability to push information out in real-time to these guards in the event of an incident. Response time is critical. A security team that leverages central command centers enable real-time mass notification and Geolocation are the best at finding where the closest teams are in response to an incident. This way, when a student hits a panic button or alarm, the security team is able to notify the closest resource, shrinking response time and mitigating risk of further harm.

We anticipate that this fall can be a positive step in the right direction. Getting classes back to normal in our universities and colleges will mean that security is taking steps of their own to ensure that the return is as safe and secure as possible. This includes updating the people, processes and adapting campus security software to help reduce risk and drive greater efficiency for threat response.

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