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John Vinson shares some of the challenges of keeping university campuses safe

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As one of the country’s most important safe zones, there is never any lack of incentive to improve campus safety. After all, failing to do so would mean that millions of students are left in harms’ way. Unfortunately, the number of incidents that happen on campus are still uncomfortably high. Just consider the mind-boggling statistics reported by the National Center for Education Statistics that shows how there were 28,400 campus-related crimes in 2016. To make matters worse, that figure was a spike when compared to the same number from 2015.

Although the effort to overcome these issues certainly exists, it sometimes fails to meet its objectives. Hence why it is imperative to continuously seek new ways to protect the students who are living on or visiting their university campus. To understand some of the major obstacles in the way, consider the following difficulties that many law enforcement agencies and strategic leaders face.

Constant Accessibility

According to Washing-based John Vinson, President of IACLEA (International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators), who has a long-lasting track record, one of the major problems that people have when working on campus-based security is the constant accessibility of the facility for the general public. In other words, the fact that nearly all colleges and universities in the United States allow non-students to enter the campus makes it extremely difficult to identify individuals who should not be there. Even schools that have systems to keep outsiders away during certain hours often struggle to do so.

For instance, large facilities like Texas Tech University, per se, have implemented check-in stations where all drivers must stop and receive permission to enter. This system, according to  John Vinson, is extremely unreliable, though, as folks can simply drive by without providing any form of identification. Additionally, John Vinson explains that check-in stations do nothing to prevent outsiders from merely walking into the campus. Thus, one of the most troubling factors that you should be aware of is the extreme accessibility that people have to these areas.

Low-Light Areas

While this particular problem does not apply to every school, there is an extremely high number of institutions that face it. Due to the growing size of many school campuses, which will be discussed shortly, it is virtually impossible to cover the entire campus of most universities with light. Doing so would require special equipment and investment that most states are unwilling or unable to make. Unfortunately, some campuses may have reduced lighting in some areas, which may which may increase the crimes of opportunities on the campuses.

Since thousands of students who reside in dorms make night trips to the library, the cafeteria, and many other areas that require them to travel across campus, they are immediately exposed to the risk of becoming a victim if the students are exercising extra safety precautions.  One way to deal with this problem, as per Mr. Vinson, is to educate students to minimize the number of trips that they take after dark and to stick to areas that have plenty of lighting.

The Size

As mentioned, it is important to think about the size of many universities in the U.S. when discussing this topic. Given that the number of schools whose campuses spread over many square miles is growing, one must wonder if there is an indirect relationship between the increase in size and overall safety. While there is nothing wrong with the fact that schools are constantly adding more ground and constructing new buildings, one must look at this from the perspective ensuring that increase growth does not impact or sacrifice campus law enforcement or public safety services.  To understand why, consider the following scenario.

If someone reports a crime at a small-to-midsize campus that spreads over 0.7 square miles, campus police and/or public safety may be able to respond quickly and address whatever situation they are facing.  If the same situation takes place at an urban university that has a three-square-mile campus, getting to the destination in question could take several minutes at a time when speed is necessary.  Thankfully, campus police and/or public safety officers train and are prepared to respond to any serious situation occurring on or around the campuses.  In fact, Cal State Fullerton University reported that the officers’ average response time in 2015 never exceeded one minute and five seconds. Even though that number may go up as the size of the campus increases, campus police and public safety officers are still able to respond in a timely manner.  The other factors, though, are certainly worthy of a discussion as they continue to be a major concern here. Hence why strategic, experienced specialists like John Vinson have an important role that is based on finding a way to make college experience safer.