Colleges upgrade security, alert systems as students make safety a priority

By Allison Srour, Features Editor and Katy Verboncoeur, Staff Writer

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With the fourth anniversary of the tragic Virginia Tech shootings approaching, the increased attention on college campus security has changed the college experience for many students.
In response to the April 2007 shooting, many colleges have upgraded their security systems by adding campus emergency phone and technology alert systems for the student body.
“The senior leadership at Penn State has been working with campus police officials reviewing security issues for the University,” said Bill Mahon, Penn State Vice President of University Relations. “It is something we spend millions of dollars on.”
Virginia Tech has also initiated several programs to increase students’ personal safety.
According to the Virginia Tech website, resident advisors collaborated with the Virginia Tech police to support the “Gotcha Program,” where officers patrol the residence halls for safety risks such as unlocked doors, and leave notes warning students about the possibility of their belongings and personal safety being in danger.
After the Virginia Tech tragedy, most colleges now have an immediate alert system that contacts students and faculty via e-mail or text message so that people can be aware of any campus emergencies.
“Every school I visited, which included Clemson, Virginia Tech, University of Maryland (UMD) and University of Delaware, had some sort of system in place that would alert students through texting or e-mail,” CHS ‘10 alumna Jenny Erickson said.
Companies that sell notification systems have seen large increases inprofit since the shootings occured.
According to Stateline.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service that reports and analyzes trends in state policy, Omnilert LLC, a company that sells mass notification systems, increased its campus alert systems from 20 to 200 since 2007. The alert system uses e-mails, phone calls, loudspeakers, digital boards and text messages to relay important information to students and faculty.
In order to increase students’ safety, UMD developed and initiated a new emergency alert system in 2009 called V911, which is a downloadable software package for cell phones and provides a direct link from the user and the campus police dispatch.
“I get text message alerts once a week,” ’10 CHS alumnus and UMD freshman Zach Baron said. “They alert you of crimes, especially burglaries, and weather conditions around campus.”
Although most colleges are increasingsafety measures, many people feel that college campuses are generally very safe.
“College campuses statistically speaking by a huge margin are among the safest places in the US,” Mahon said. “The biggest crime problems on college campuses are cell phone, bicycle and iPod thefts. Most years nobody is shot on any college campus in America, even though most years thousands and thousands of Americans are shot.”
Safety is also something more CHS students are paying attention to when looking at schools.
According to senior Elizabeth Morse, who will attend Dartmouth College, safety was definitely something she paid attention to.
“It’s something that really comforts me to know,” Morse said. “It’s one less thing I have to worry about when I’m on my own.”