Nothing Junior About Security
Security is among the top concerns at colleges, universities
- By Tony Bradberry
- Jan 05, 2016
Campus safety is one of the top concerns for colleges across the country. The FBI's Uniform Crime Report and Clery Act Data identified 2,696 violent crime incidents and 87,160 crime incidents on and around college campuses in 2011, as reported by Business Insider. Given these statistics and as campuses and enrollment numbers continue to grow, campus police and security personnel are turning to technology to increase their reach and to better protect their staff, students and assets.
At Joliet Junior College, they have
embraced the idea of technology-driven security
to improve safety, response and resolution
of issues across their campuses. Due to
their focus and ongoing efforts around security,
Joliet is considered a national leader in
Located in Joliet, Il., about an hour outside
of Chicago, Joliet Junior College, or JJC, was
founded in 1901, as the first public community
college in the United States. Joliet Junior
College is comprised of three campuses, as
well as three additional educational centers.
The main campus of Joliet Junior College consists
of 15 buildings, equating to roughly 1
million square feet of facilities. The campus is
visited by more than 35,000 students a year,
with approximately 1,500 faculty members
To handle the tall task of protecting the large
number of student, staff and facilities, JJC
turns to its campus police force. The college’s
campus police department, is made up of 14
full-time certified police officers, 19 community
service officers, 5 dispatchers, 4 student
workers and 4 additional administrative staff
who patrol or monitor the campus 24/7/365.
While this staff rivals many small to medium
size city police departments, it is the totality of
their security and technology approach that
allows them to create an atmosphere of safety
amongst their faculty and students.
Officer Chris Luttrell joined the department
in 2004, and has worked cooperatively with
JJC’s Facilities and IT Departments to implement
new and expand existing security solutions
to create a multifaceted security program
that identifies and fills security needs for the
college. This program has been embraced and
supported by the college administration which
provided funding to make this vision a reality.
A $315,000 Illinois EMA Grant allowed for
update and expansion of a large portion of the
existing security system.
Over the past 6 years the square footage of
the buildings has nearly doubled from its existing
500,000 to approximately 1 million square
feet today. Prior to the expansion JJC had only
20 analog cameras and no remote door access
or panic systems in place. Today Joliet’s camera
system boasts more than 500 Axis IP cameras
and roughly 1,000 doors equipped with remote
locking controls; Joliet also relies heavily on
state of the art software, hardware and networking
systems from Cisco and Microsoft
campus-wide. However, Luttrell said the most
vital aspect of technology to their overall security
plan is their duress system.
In 2010, JJC began to investigate installing
panic buttons throughout its main campus.
When looking at different options, the idea of
hardwired buttons was quickly ruled out.
“With such a large campus, the cost to
install a hardwired system just didn’t make
sense to us. With the expansiveness of the
campus we really needed wireless technology
to help further ensure safety and immediacy
in case of an emergency,” Luttrell said. “So we
set out to find other technologies that could
meet our needs.”
After searching various options, JJC identified
the Centurion system from Response
Technologies, which uses the Centurion
wireless sensors, including panic buttons, to
provide an almost limitless range, affording
it the ability to cover a campus like JJC with
a single system. JJC began their relationship
with the Centurion system that year with a
small trial system.
The original system included 17 buttons,
beta-tested with select departments including the library and administrative offices. These departments tested its
reliability and effectiveness. As word spread to other departments after
the system was installed, the campus police began receiving requests
for additional buttons. Working with departments throughout the
campus created a pay structure for the buttons in order to promote the
idea of “buying in” to the system and its procedures. Today, 180 strategically
placed duress buttons protect all departments. The system was
also expanded to cover 2 additional campuses. JJC campus police extol
the virtues of the Centurion noting that it is virtually maintenance free
and that they have experienced no signal loss since installation.
“The most important thing the system does is to create a sense of
security for our staff,” Luttrell said. “They know if someone presses a
button, police will respond immediately.”
Centurion provides instant, location-based notifications when a
button is pressed. This means that when one of the faculty members
activates their button, an audible notification will be sent over the
police’s two-way radios providing details of where the incident is
occurring within seconds. The system is used often for minor incidents
such as fights or arguments that are beginning to escalate. Luttrell said
that the system was recently activated by their financial aid office during
a heated argument.
“As things escalated, the employee knew where the button was and
activated it,” Luttrell said. “The employee eventually picked up the
phone to call police, but by that point the officers were already enroute
to that location.”
Something that makes Joliet Junior College and their campus police
a leader in leveraging technology is that they are always looking to
consolidate systems, and find new ways to use existing technology to
assist their needs. Recently, during the construction on a new building,
it was determined it would be impractical to use a conventional security
system to protect the facility while it was being built due to the lack
of telephone land lines. As a way to bridge the gap, the school integrated
Centurion to be the panic system in the new facility, to also act
as the general security system during construction. By using wireless
motion detectors they were able to provide the same security services
that standard security systems provide, with the added benefit of
removing the monitoring fees and the extra steps in alarm notification
that are normally incurred with a traditional monitoring service.
The new facility will open in 2017 and will be the first building at the
school to be completely monitored in house. All cameras, panic buttons
and motion detectors will go directly to campus police without
any outside monitoring companies being utilized. Long-term, JJC’s
objective is to maintain and monitor all systems in house, removing
the need for any outside monitoring services for the entire college.
JJC has become a leader in campus safety technology by constantly
innovating. But, Officer Luttrell explains that it is a never-ending challenge.
”It’s critical to stay up to date with the latest technologies or we
could become vulnerable,” he said.
What is next for Joliet Junior College? JJC continues to place a high
level of importance on safety and security, so strategies like continuing
to consolidate systems, and improvements such as integration of systems
are being considered. The ability to trigger panic buttons or
motion detectors and serve up camera images is certainly possible for
the college in the future. “Our outlook on technology
and innovation and our overall goal to protect
Joliet Junior College will continue to drive our
commitment to safety.” Luttrell said.
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Security Today.