Teamwork Tactics

University of Pennsylvania excels with collaborative security program

A collaborative security system often includes an effective and flexible program. Such is the case at the University of Pennsylvania, where security applications stand as a successful model for campus security. One of the reasons for the university’s success is a plan to maintain a safe environment for more than 40,000 students, faculty and staff, and its partnership with AlliedBarton Security Services.

AlliedBarton has performed a number of security duties since 1996, which enables Penn’s Police Department to focus on law enforcement.

The Ivy League school had traditionally passive security officer assignments for campus facilities—but an expansion moved the security team to an unprecedented tactical operation of providing patrol services on- and off-campus. The security partnership created more visible security on campus, which has not only reduced crime, but resulted in an ever-changing and ever-responsive security force to the sensitive needs of on- and off-campus situations.

A Close Partnership
At its expanded urban campus in West Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania seeks to provide safe streets for residents and businesspeople. More foot patrols, bike patrols, access control officers, sentry officers and escort officers have been added during the last 10 years.

An invaluable ally for both Penn and AlliedBarton is the University City District, which was established in 1997 to improve the quality of life in the 2.2-square-mile area of West Philadelphia that touches the campuses of Penn and Drexel University. In addition to building effective partnerships to maintain a clean and safe environment and to promote, plan and advocate for community diversity, UCD became the catalyst to enhance open dialogue among groups that had a history of never dealing with each another.

Good security involves planning, and AlliedBarton chose open interaction with UCD, especially in the deployment of its officers and UCD ambassadors where patrols overlap and to provide mutual support. The high visibility of security officers on patrol or at their posts gives the public a sense of security. For the bad guys, it means they’re apt to be caught if they do something wrong.

Since partnering with AlliedBarton, Penn’s crime rate has consistently declined. Through its crime mapping system, the university can identify crime trends and adjust police and security deployment plans and procedures as needed. The flexibility of the Division of Public Safety and its close working relationship with AlliedBarton officials, UCD and the Philadelphia Police Department allows immediate and strategic changes to cope with crime increases.

Meeting Obstacles
There have been challenges, but the flexibility built into the security partnership was successfully demonstrated in 2005 related to an increase in robberies on the fringes of the campus.

Addressing the issue, AlliedBarton maximized deployment and visibility. Working with Penn’s top law enforcement officials, the company’s leadership group made changes to meet the goals.

Results came as consultation between AlliedBarton and Maureen Rush, the vice president for public safety, backed a $5 million pledge from Penn President Amy Gutmann to fight crime around campus. Company officials reconfigured patrol sectors from circular beats to intersecting straight-line patrols. This increased the visibility of security officers to the public, and it created a coordinated, grid-like web of crime prevention.

This also created new fixed posts at designated campus locations where security officers were assigned for a highly visible presence from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. These lighthouse posts serve as a safe haven for anyone needing immediate assistance. Officers also changed their uniforms to a highly visible neon yellow, while bike officers were equipped with blinking lights to enhance visibility.

“You have our word that we are addressing the issue of crime as aggressively and strategically as possible,” Gutmann said. “Our entire team at Penn will work tirelessly and do everything within our power, including working effectively with our many partners, to enhance the personal safety of all of our community members. With our entire community working together, we will prevail.”

Visible Results
And the university did prevail as it added visibility and expanded patrols, helping reduce crime in 2006. That pattern has continued ever since. The new crime-incidents map shows that the campus and surrounding area is an island of relative safety. Compared to 2005, the 2006 figures showed a 22 percent decrease in robberies in the Penn patrol zone.

“Everything Penn is doing to make Penn a safe place helps the city as well,” said Lawrence Sherman, a Penn criminology professor.

Penn is expanding eastward, meaning that the partnership with AlliedBarton will take on even greater significance. Company officials will add major responsibilities with the larger patrol area. Thankfully, the experience factor already is in place, but the techniques and procedures are always changing to meet challenging security situations.

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