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The role of security services in campus violence prevention

How sound security strategies can help prevent college campus security issues

Every academic year, university administrators and staff welcome a new cohort of undergraduates into their care. Being responsible for the well-being of thousands of college students is as much a privilege as it is a challenge – campus violence prevention strategies and education, as well as timely emergency notification and accurate reporting, need to always remain top of mind. Having a sound, transparent and community-minded campus security service can make a significant difference in whether or not these strategies are successful. 

Campus security personnel and the college community

Campus security officers are a non-sworn task force responsible for campus violence prevention, managing college campus security issues and enforcing campus policies. They are sometimes referred to as peacekeeping officers and typically carry only de-escalation tools, such as TASER devices and body-worn cameras. In addition to conventional P, campus security personnel are trained to work with young adults and respond to incidents with minimal use of force. And because they are university employees, they also receive compliance training for the Clery Act (mandatory reporting of crime statistics on college campuses), FERPA (student record privacy), HIPAA (protected health information), Title IX (equal treatment for all genders in educational settings) along with specific university policies.  

Challenges of keeping a campus secure 

An ever-changing student population means safety education needs to be a continuous effort, especially given that security officers often act as intermediaries between students and local law enforcement if a crime occurs off-campus. Campus security officers also have to manage expectations from students, families, faculty and fellow staff members, all of whom may have competing viewpoints or priorities. That means in addition to enforcing rules and keeping the peace, campus personnel often have to act as mediators and educators. Depending on their university’s resources, they may also struggle with hiring and equipping their staff with modern solutions equal to the task of maintaining campus safety. 

In other words, the job of a campus security officer is complex and full of multi-faceted priorities, including developing strategies for effective campus violence prevention. 

Campus violence prevention strategies

A campus security service can employ a number of strategies to help make a university a safe, welcoming space. 

Risk assessment

Campus security officers should conduct periodic risk assessments throughout the campus, especially before large events such as graduations or welcome orientations. That could include physically touring the campus to inspect entry points and test security mechanisms, as well as conducting interviews with facility workers and vendors about how they are accessing different parts of the campus. This strategy is especially important for large or multi-campus universities that are open to the public. After completing a risk assessment, the security service should produce a campus security report, which would include their findings of any potential security issues and plans for remediation.

Sound security policies

A well-considered campus security policy can provide guidance for your staff, faculty and students. Your campus security service can aid in developing these guidelines based on their risk assessments and the unique needs of your campus. A campus security policy also lays out a clear chain of command, which eliminates confusion when a security officer or a staff member is responding to an incident. It should also clarify reporting procedures and list appropriate resources that need to be shared with students.

Community engagement and education

Since campus security officers work with an ever-changing population (students graduate and new students come in to replace them), building awareness around security best practices should be an ongoing effort. Helping students and staff understand the role of security on campus is also a powerful tool in preventing misunderstandings. University security officers may engage in teaching workshops about campus violence prevention and the security team’s role in keeping the university safe, as well as hosting self-defense classes and participating in other campus events where they can be seen in an approachable light. 

Incident prevention

When it comes to any campus incident, the best outcome is always prevention, and this is where security officers can make the most impact by providing safety escorts to students in early and late hours, patrolling remote areas of the campus and monitoring entry points. Remotely monitoring parts of the campus with security cameras can also be an effective way to intervene in a potentially contentious situation before it escalates. In addition, if your security officers host workshops about campus safety and smart bystander intervention, your students and staff will feel more empowered to stop preventable incidents. 

Threat identification and response

Campus security officers may be the first on the scene of a potential incident, and should be able to respond appropriately while minimizing use of force. Tools such as body-worn cameras can document incidents, which can make investigations easier, while modern evidence management platforms help security officers and campus law enforcement maintain evidence trails and protect the privacy of victims and bystanders by automatically blurring faces and other identifying information in video footage.

Modernizing campus security with streamlined solutions 

Axon is committed to providing safety, transparency and training tools for campus security and police departments so they can serve their communities with confidence. That includes VR training solutions, which help campus security officers prepare for managing complex real-life scenarios, including responding to mental health crises and de-escalating situations without use of force. To learn more, reach out to the Axon team.