Thursday, September 19, 2019

Are You Overlooking This Security Gap on Your Campus?

Professor speaks in college lecture hall
If your college or university receives federal funding — which many major public and private universities do — your public safety or campus police department is hopefully putting the finishing touches on your annual security report (ASR) as required by the Clery Act.

ASRs must be published by October 1 of each year and must include campus crime statistics for the previous three calendar years, steps your institution has taken to improve campus safety, and police statements regarding:

  • Crime reporting
  • Campus facility and security and access
  • Law enforcement authority
  • Incidence of alcohol and drug use
  • Prevention of and response to sexual assault, domestic or dating violence, and a stalking

Not only do on-campus crimes affect the personal safety of your students or staff, they can also hit your university's pocketbook since failing to report certain crimes in your ASR can turn into major fines. As of February 2019, the minimum Clery fine is $57,317 per violation, and penalties can reach much higher figures. One state university, for example, was fined $4.5 million for its failure to protect students from sexual abuse.

While we can't help you with adhering to the Clery Act or completing your ASR, we do have some ideas about why having a secure campus is critical to your university's long-term success and how you can improve your security measures to keep your students and staff safe.

What are the consequences of security gaps?


Fines shouldn't be your only concern when it comes to adhering to the Clery Act. After all, the real point is to protect your students. Better security measures discourage crimes, hold employees and staff accountable, prevent internal threats, and promote good security practices on campus.

Of course, fines can be a major headache for your university, but they pale in comparison to the ramifications of a crime. Not only are your students and staff at risk of physical or sexual harm as the result of such crimes, a high level of incidents reflects poorly on your university. A hostile environment discourages students from attending your university, deters organizations from interacting with your institution and holding events on your campus, and indirectly affects the availability of grants and research opportunities.

What should you do to improve campus security?


There are obvious security measures that have likely long been a part of your campus security strategy — door locks, security cameras, patrol officers. But those shouldn't be the only steps you take to prevent crimes. Having a way to hold university staff and outside vendors accountable for their access to various areas on your campus is critical to providing a safe and secure environment.

Every day, your campus probably sees anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people pass through its various doors. Locks are great, but how useful are they if your keys — even electronic access cards or fobs — are poorly managed? How many of your campus keys go missing each year? How much have you spent on rekeying doors because keys given to fired staff members or recently graduated student workers weren't turned in? What happens when a master key goes missing?

That's where key control can make a difference in your campus security strategy.

How can key control close the security gap?


Whether key are needed for short-term work, such as an outside vendor providing specialized maintenance in a secure building, or for long-term issue to university staff, you need to know exactly who has keys and when they took them.

Consider using an electronic key control system that secures keys and automatically tracks user access, holding employees accountable for what happens to keys they're responsible for. The system should be able to send management alerts when keys aren't returned in a given time, helping you respond quickly to a potential security vulnerability.

You should use your electronic key control system to manage long-term issue keys as well since even one unreturned key could fall through the gaps and be misused by a fired employee — even two years later. Be sure to run routine reports on key activity and perform audits to make sure long-term issue keys are still with the people who are supposed to have them and keys that should be returned are tracked down.

As you prepare your Clery Act ASR, are you confident that your campus already does everything it can to protect its students? Take your security strategy to the next level by better managing your keys.