Emerging Options for Improving College Campus Security Systems

Crime on campus can quickly become high-profile events that keep admissions down and make students feel unsafe. Not only do lax security standards impact how well colleges can protect their students, it can also negatively affect their public rankings or image. However, there are some emerging options in college campus security systems which can help school leaders cut down on incidents and provide better evidence for investigations.

Why Theft is Such a Problem for Colleges

The overwhelming majority of on-campus crime—nearly half—comes from burglary. It’s also a difficult crime to solve, as only 35% of property crime cases are cleared by law enforcement. Communal living spaces can often create environments where theft is high because of the sheer volume of people going in and out of buildings. Dorms are particularly risky, as these students enter and leave their rooms frequently and may forget to lock doors or secure items. The same goes for classrooms and laboratory spaces, where hundreds or even thousands of individuals may travel through every day. Meanwhile, thanks to various digital platforms, these thieves have an almost untraceable way to sell their stolen goods.

One major item which appeals to campus thieves due to its portability and high value is textbooks. Individuals may steal these books and then sell them to students at other universities while minimizing their risk of getting caught. As textbooks can often go for hundreds of dollars, this is a lucrative property crime which is very difficult to pinpoint.

Just this past January, two Texas men were sentenced to federal prison for such a scheme. The two stole textbooks from professors’ offices in various Wisconsin universities. Then, they would turn around and sell those books through a third party in Texas. What initially was thought to be a small isolated incident was later discovered to be a massive, interstate theft ring with more than a metric ton of books stolen and resold at various colleges. The two were caught thanks to surveillance footage, but this was only after close to $20,000 in books were stolen and resold.

Issues like this happen on a much smaller scale, every day. Often, thefts on campus are a result of crimes of opportunity. A student may notice unattended belongings and choose to take them to resell them for a fast profit. In most instances, they aren’t caught. This lack of accountability leads to continued thefts and losses for students and schools.  However, by using new technology, schools can deter such crimes of opportunity and reduce these problems.

College Campus Security Systems for Deterring Theft

Access control and video surveillance can do a lot to help universities reduce their property crime issues, but often, they’re not used to their full potential. For many schools, credential-driven access control could significantly reduce theft, but these programs are challenging to implement cost-effectively.

App-Driven Credentialing Techniques

Keycards are the typical solutions for managing secure areas, as they allow for quick access while ensuring the default status of doors is “locked.” However, universities with thousands of students find it difficult to manage such programs, due to the high cost of reissuing lost or stolen cards and adding thousands more into circulation each term. Also, stolen cards may remain in circulation, creating just as much of a security risk as an unlocked door.

This is where app-based credentials can provide a viable solution. Instead of getting a physical keycard, the student receives a secure app. They download it onto their smartphone and use it to access various points in the university. The app-based program reduces the cost of physical replacement cards and ensures better security, as students often password protect their phones. Even if those phones are lost or stolen, access integrity is maintained as the app can be remotely disabled.

Surveillance Supplemented By Video Analytics

Surveillance is another solution which could help universities but is often not utilized to its full effect. Universities lose the deterrent impact of cameras if students know that such footage is not monitored. Using video analytics in conjunction with surveillance makes these programs much more effective. These programs can tag involved parties based on their access credentials and take special note of individuals with unverified identities.

Had such a plan been in place during the book thefts at those Wisconsin universities, the perpetrators would have been caught well before their crimes became an interstate conspiracy. Video analytics enhanced surveillance may have deterred their thefts. At the very least, it would have alerted campus security much sooner to let them know unknown individuals were accessing restricted areas. Essentially, video analytics turn the average surveillance program from reactive to proactive by alerting individuals of abnormal activity and tagging it as such.

An Integrated Security System Is The Best Option

These new college campus security systems run on integration. Campuses connect active directories to their access control, which feeds into surveillance and credential programs to allow remote management and proactive alerts.

As colleges have many separate buildings and locations to manage, integration also helps them create a more comprehensive view of their whole school. Campus leaders trying to cut down on the risk of property theft can leverage some of the newest innovations in college campus security systems to deter criminals and improve their ability to clear cases.

3Sixty Integrated assists our higher education clients by offering them the most innovative solutions in campus security for deterring crime and managing risk. Through our Site Owl software, you can monitor the status of all devices in your security infrastructure, no matter their location. For more information, call (210) 545-1770 or fill out our contact form.