Campus safety will remain a hot topic for higher ed throughout 2019, but a few key themes stand out as top higher ed trends. At Rave, we have noticed an increased interest in our campus safety-related content. We predict that community engagement through a community policing approach will continue to play a critical role in campus safety throughout 2019 and beyond.
The role of campus safety officials has evolved from locking doors when classes end and preventing property damage to addressing more serious concerns, such as sexual assaults, mental health issues and active shooters. As a result, colleges and universities have boosted the number of campus safety officials and their responsibilities. There are more than 4,000 police departments in higher education institutions across the U.S. Some officers have the authority to make arrests, carry guns and patrol off campus.
The majority of public colleges and universities (92%) have sworn and armed campus officers, compared to 38% of private institutions, according to the most recent report released by the Department of Justice (DOJ). While the number of armed campus police personnel has increased, numerous reports state there’s been a decrease in crime at higher education institutions. A recent FBI report said there weren’t any active shooter incidents in 2016 and 2017.
While the crime rate has gone down, the duty to protect the campus community hasn't. College campuses across the United States have started to focus on continuing to build community relations. This community policing approach helps students encounter campus safety officials in a positive capacity, building a routine presence and eventually helping students feel comfortable coming forward to report crimes, ask questions or seek
As such, focusing on key higher ed trends that enhance this community policing approach will only benefit college campuses everywhere.
Higher Ed Trends To Take Into 2019
1. Mass notification is only one approach to community engagement
A survey of private and public and higher education institutions in the United States found that colleges and universities were not using their mass notification systems to full ability. The survey results also revealed the biggest safety concerns for colleges and universities, how they're using the latest technology to communicate with Gen Z, and who the largest unprotected groups are on campus. The top safety concern for college campuses is severe weather, with 92% of survey respondents reporting that they use their mass notification systems for severe weather alerts alone. However, the data also indicates that campuses are missing out on other ways to engage with their community.
2. Campuses must adapt to the new Gen Z population
Campus safety personnel are looking for new ways to engage with their student communities, such as interacting with them on a personal level and holding self-defense classes. There's still a challenge in engaging with the new crop of Generation Z students and campus safety officers will likely need to reach them where they are — on their phones.
3. Communicating during a crisis should go beyond email
In September 2018, Hurricane Florence barreled toward the U.S. with the Medical University of South Caroline (MUSC) in its sights. During the storm, the Medical University of South Carolina MUSC managed to keep operations running thanks to its crisis communication team and a mass notification system. MUSC had implemented the system in 2014 to send notifications to the 23,400 members of its campus community, which then evolved into communications during life safety incidents such as active shooters, earthquakes, and severe weather. The Crisis Management team was able to cut through clutter and send out 29 messages through email and text to the MUSC community, totaling 678,600 messages during that week.
4. "Buyer beware" when it comes to the rise in campus safety app options
A simple Google search for "campus safety apps" with lead you to 50,000,000 results, but beware of apps claiming they are an all-in-one low-cost solution.
Your vendor should be able to answer 10 questions to demonstrate their true value. For example, is your vendor properly safeguarding and authenticating your app? One way to find out easily is by going to the app store on your phone and seeing if you can easily download another school's app. Keep in mind who’s going to have access to your app, how you and your campus community will use these apps, what kind of information do you want to share, and how are you going to protect and authenticate your community.
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