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Campus Security Trends

Illustration by Security Management, iStock

Gaining Insight into Campus Security Trends 

In many ways, 2019 was a typical year for the University of Regina. Its student body of roughly 16,500 students was living in dorms and learning in lecture halls or labs on the campus, nestled within Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Similarly, the university’s 2,000 employees worked on site and in-person—including the security team.

But today, like many other establishments of higher education, classes and work are largely conducted online, even for some security roles. The University of Regina campus and its various departments are preparing to reopen to 50 percent capacity come September 2021, and, if another wave of new COVID-19 cases doesn’t derail the progress, a full reopening is scheduled for January 2022.

In the meantime, Scott Crawley, manager of campus security operations, can safely work from home while keeping tabs on developing issues on campus with real-time information coming in through the university’s incident reporting software. And just because the campus is locked down to avoid spreading the coronavirus, it doesn’t mean all remains quiet.

We had to make a decision because certain things weren’t getting supported anymore.

In 2019, students and staff filed a total of 1,225 reports about incidents—ranging from vandalism to sexual assault—which required the security team to follow up or investigate the issue. In 2020, that number dropped down to 806 security incidents.

However, the number of total calls for service jumped from 13,633 to 19,640. Some of that increase was due to more information calls. For example, a limited number of access points were established for people approved to use the university’s facilities. Students and staff would check-in at these access points, enabling the university to track the number of people entering the campus and the areas they would work in. So, if a COVID-19 hotspot developed on campus, university staff and security would be able to notify anyone who may have been exposed to the virus. Crawley says that several calls came from these access points—including requests for information, for assistance if an unauthorized person was trying to enter the campus, or if the entrances needed more masks, hand sanitizer, or wipes.

Before 2020, Crawley says he knew that campus security’s record-keeping software and record-sharing system (which involved printing out the report, copying it, and physically sending it to other departments), while decent, could be better. “We had to make a decision because certain things weren’t getting supported anymore,” he adds.

While looking for alternatives, Crawley and his department came across Resolver’s Incident Management and Command Center software programs. But the products would have exceeded the allotted security budget for just maintaining and sharing records. To get buy-in for the Resolver system, Crawley pitched to the university that it could be used by the security team, HR, and other departments. Although each group has access to the system, access to the files is determined by the user’s privilege level and department.

The programs are used by campus security; health, safety, and wellness; student conduct; respectful workplace, which falls under the umbrella of human resources; and sexual violence. Although both software programs come as out-of-the-box solutions, Resolver worked with the different departments to customize their respective interfaces. It created specific forms and workflows, bringing the systems online at the beginning of December 2019. “They built it around our needs,” Crawley says.

Campus security officers use Command Center as a dispatch module to coordinate and streamline their patrols. From the computer screen, a dispatcher in the security office is notified about officers’ locations while on duty, specifically showing the time and location of the last call the officer responded to, as well as whether he or she is on a break or available to take an incoming call.

Crawley says that the university is also working on bringing a connected smartphone application online, which would be coordinated through Command Center. The app would allow dispatchers to track officers’ locations in real time to quickly determine which officer is closest to an incoming call and which route to take to the scene. Officers will also use the app to indicate when they are on the scene, as well as directly upload photos related to the incident that can be compiled in a final report.

The dispatcher can file a report in the Incident Management program. The management system is also tied to the university’s online portal for reporting issues, which gives the person submitting the report the option to remain anonymous.

Members of the security team will triage the report, determining if they should continue investigating the issue or if the incident would be better handled by another department. If security does continue to investigate, officers conduct interviews (these days via Zoom) and leverage resources from other departments—such as the student record database.

Security operations managers and supervisors have access to the reports and can approve them through the Incident Management system, whether they are on campus or working from home. They can also notify investigating officers if more information is required.

Once a report is approved by a second supervisor, other relevant departments are notified. And if those departments need additional clarification or more information, the request is as easy as sending an email—a big change from the old method of printing out reports, which were then copied and physically sent to other relevant groups. Now, everything is saved in a cloud server, and sharing a file with the right people just involves selecting the correct online distribution route.

Patrols are not the only proactive element of the systems—the trend reports also enable smarter security decisions.

A large part of security’s role has shifted since both the pandemic and the installation of the systems. Crawley says that his team is mostly involved in “proactive patrols,” enabled through the trends reports that the software can generate to give insight into days and areas that are more likely to be the site of an incident on campus.

Crawley can pull a snapshot of the past 24 hours, including the number of calls for service and actual incidents within that timeframe. He can then compare days that featured a higher number of security incidents. “I know how many calls for service and how many incidents were created out of that 24 hours just with one click of a button,” Crawley says.

The trend reports serve multiple purposes, both for justifying future budgets and driving scheduling decisions. “I kind of overlay all that, and it helps me with staffing as well,” Crawley says. “It might mean someone getting a vacation day versus not getting one if it’s a peak time.”

Patrols are not the only proactive element enabled by the systems—the trend reports also enable smarter security decisions, Crawley says.

For example, 16 officers usually staff the security patrol team, but the recent departure of two officers created additional strain. Crawley says that the systems helped him obtain buy-in to refill those positions.

He used reports to show the different kinds of incidents patrolling officers were likely to face and why they need additional resources. An officer responded to a break-in and attempted theft of construction equipment and tools on a satellite campus. That officer’s only backup was the dispatcher, however, meaning that while both officers dealt with the issue, the dispatch desk was left unmanned and a report on the incident could not be filed until after the dispatcher returned.

While Crawley says he understands he will not see four teams of four patrol officers again until things start to pick up on campus, he adds that he knows that these reports emphasize how officers maintain safety throughout the campus and how the university administration can support them.

For more information about Resolver, contact Isaac Trask, [email protected].