See Something, Say Something: Securing Campus Environments with People and Technology

See Something, Say Something: Securing Campus Environments with People and Technology

As security technology and human engagement continue to intersect, it is imperative that campus security professionals make a conscious effort to refine their security procedures

The old adage, “See Something, Say Something” has become the rallying cry for encouraging self-vigilance to spot domestic terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security.  The phrase also has been widely adopted by many public transportation facilities in an effort to encourage citizens to be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious behavior.  And although cliché, the “see something, say something” approach also applies to campus environments. 

According to the 2015 Campus Safety and Security Survey, overall, reports of crime on college campuses have decreased in recent years. In 2012, there were 29,500 criminal incidents against persons and property on campus at public and private 2-year and 4-year postsecondary institutions that were reported to police and security agencies, representing a 4 percent decrease from 2011.

This decrease in crime is indeed good news. But, what steps can campuses take to enjoy continued low crime rates?  There are a wealth of campus security solutions currently available on the market. ASIS spoke with a few of our members about trends they are seeing in the industry and the simplicity of their answers might surprise you. 

Everyone Plays a Role in Campus Security

According to Paul Timm, a board-certified Physical Security Professional and vice president of Facility Engineering Associates, whether on a campus, at a shopping mall or any large area that can be regarded as a soft target, anytime security personnel can get advanced information about suspicious behavior, they are one step closer to preventing the unthinkable.

For Timm, preventing the unthinkable starts with building an informed community.  According to Timm, campuses in the future will rely more heavily on signage reminding people to be aware of their surroundings and to actively report any unusual behavior.  Campuses also will begin to adopt building standards, such as the 2015 International Building Codes. Designed with an eye toward safety, these codes will forbid building designs, such as classrooms without locks, and will require all schools to have FEMA approved tornado shelters (except those on the east and west coast).   

Although these new standards will prove fruitful in ensuring physical safety, ultimately, according to Timm, the campus safety buck stops with everyone.  “The value of the security systems in place rests precariously on a foundation of policies and people. People are ultimately determining the effectiveness of the security protocols in place, such as not holding the door for someone who doesn’t have the keycard to get in a dorm and have to be empowered to report any suspicious activity.”  Luckily, there is an app for that.

See Something, Say Something…with an App

The heightened concern nationwide about security in the aftermath of campus shootings and other incidents, combined with a generation that is more prone to text than call, is driving the creation and demand for safety apps.

According to Carleigh Smith, LiveSafe implementation consultant for higher education and corporate clients, over 130 college campuses are using safety apps to encourage student and faculty to report activities ranging from suspicious behavior to mental health issues.  In fact, app-based security notification systems have been credited with saving the lives of two students, on two different campuses, who indicated to a peer they intended to commit suicide.  The peer used the anonymous reporting feature on the app to alert school personnel, who dispatched counselors and medical personnel to the students. 

According to Smith, campus security personnel welcome the use of the apps as they have proven useful in helping them carry out their jobs.  With a click of a button, they now have access to incident alerts and detailed tips, complete with GPS coordinates, detailed physical descriptions, and photos of potential lawbreakers or license plates.  And, students feel more comfortable with the anonymity of texting or communicating through the apps, instead of calling.

“App-based security systems are designed to meet students where they are---on their smartphones,” said Smith.  “As see something, say something becomes more resonant, app-based technology will become the ‘do something’ for campus security.”

However, as we become more increasingly dependent on app-based technology, it’s important to remember the efficacy of tried and true security technology, such as video surveillance. 

See Something...with Video Surveillance

When it comes to campus video surveillance, deterrence is the primary objective. In fact, 80-85% of schools use a networked video solution to aide in surveillance. The presence of a camera alone has been known to incrementally decrease crime.  Couple that with audio and video analytics, and campuses both large and small can increase the return on their investment from implementing a video surveillance program.

According to James Marcella, director, technical services at Axis Communications, Inc, whether its day-to-day operations or emerging communications needs, communications will play an increasingly important role in campus security. Recognizing the importance of communications, the industry is starting to see new technology that leverages Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), a communications protocol for signaling and controlling multimedia communication sessions in applications of Internet telephony for voice and video calls, in private IP telephone systems, as well as in instant messaging over Internet Protocol (IP) networks

For example, with SIP, if someone approaches the school after hours, the camera can send a pre-recorded message to the intruder.  Most intruders will leave the premises when they hear the message. 

In a high school campus environment, SIP gives staff the ability to communicate directly through the camera.  Staff can target certain school zones and send targeted messages, such as ‘get to class’ directly to the impacted areas.

“Video surveillance increases the efficiency of the campus as security personnel or other staff do not have to physically go to the location.  With a click of a button, they can send targeted messages to impacted areas. As SIP technology continues to mature, one of the major pushes within the industry will be to get schools to consolidate their IT devices using SIP,” said Marcella.

Refining makes perfect

As security technology and human engagement continue to intersect, it is imperative that campus security professionals make a conscious effort to refine their security procedures.  Considering recent events, such as the riot in Charlottesville, campuses across the nation are re-evaluating their security protocols.  Campus security is never to be taken for granted. Having a more vigilant campus body and incorporating technology are a few of the options available to campus security professionals as they work to maintain the safety of the people and property entrusted to them. 

As security professionals continue to refine their approach to security, ASIS International is an excellent resource.  The ASIS Seminar 2017 will feature more than 500 vendors who offer a wealth of campus security solutions, such as video surveillance, app-based technology, cameras, smart access systems, and engaging educational sessions.

For example, on September 26, there will be an Impact Learning session that will examine the role of unarmed security personnel in active shooter response (Booth 5104 at 11:00 am).  Interested security professionals can also register to obtain a complimentary “exhibit hall- only pass” at

To learn more about ASIS Seminar 2017, visit

Digital Edition

  • Campus Security & Life Safety Magazine - May / June 2022

    May / June 2022


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