Every year, campus safety managers will create a comprehensive plan to keep students, faculty, and staff safe. These preparations must take a variety of potential emergency situations into account - from medical intervention to an active assailant on the premises. In addition, each college or university will be tasked with handling risks unique to their school. For example, a campus based in the midwest may face tornado warnings or other inclement weather, while one in a metropolitan area may need increased building security due to higher-population density. There are many ways security personnel can address potential threats, from investing in physical security measures like cameras or automatic door locks, to empowering the campus community to take safety practices into their own hands.
Across the United States, student patrol programs are becoming more prevalent. At any given time, a student patrol program can enlist the help of 30-50 students, offering an employment opportunity that doubles as community service or career training. For students studying toward a degree in sociology, social work, or criminal justice, who may be interested in working in law enforcement or for a government agency such as the FBI or CIA, the program can provide valuable hands-on education. At the University of Illinois, students use the Student Patrol team as an opportunity to gain hands-on career experience, according to the Illinois News Bureau. Participants have gone on to take on roles at the FBI, nearby Colorado police departments, and even joined the campus safety team post-graduation.
By setting up such a program, college or university officials can actively engage the student community in safety practices, while bolstering the reach and capabilities of a preexisting campus safety team. These positions are generally part-time, paid jobs held under the supervision of campus police. Students who sign up have the opportunity to help manage security on campus, picking up additional professional skills. Meanwhile, the campus safety team will be able to augment their patrol divisions. Students will not take on the same responsibilities as a campus safety officer, which is a trained professional position, but they will be able to provide an extra layer of security monitoring and student guidance.
What Is A Student Patrol Program?
Student patrol officers support the mission and duties of campus police. Over the course of the position, students can help the campus safety team achieve a variety of goals, including reporting suspicious activity on campus, or answering questions for fellow students, faculty, employees, or visitors touring the school. Patrol teams may also assist with lockdown drills or procedures, and providing safe escorts on campus when requested.
At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, trained student officers perform a variety of public safety activities, but for many, the primary responsibility is to manage SafeWalks, a campus safety escort program. The service provides free walking escorts at night to any student, employee, or faculty member who needs to travel across campus but does not feel safe doing so alone after dark. Angela Annanarino, a student patrol officer, noted that safe campus navigation was a major priority of the team, as per Illinois News Bureau. “I’m able to help fellow students get home safely and make sure they feel comfortable being on campus,” she said. “That’s our number one main concern.”
Any student can apply for these positions, as long as they demonstrate several key competencies. Applicants would typically be in good academic standing, as well as have an ability to demonstrate good judgement, positive communication skills, fortitude to deal with tough situations, commitment to helping campus safety teams during odd, off-hours when safety teams are most likely to help, and a sensitivity toward the many identities of fellow students on campus.
In general, students with an active interest in a career in criminal justice will be more likely to secure a position, but that doesn’t mean these roles aren’t available to those simply looking for an on-campus job. Students who take on the position for financial benefit typically enjoy the job and are interested in taking on those responsibilities. At the U of I, for example, several students who took on the role as an on-campus job left the position with an interest in pursuing a career in the field.
How Does Student Patrol Improve Safety?
Amid rising safety concerns, a student patrol program can help campus police increase their ability to help students, faculty, and staff. These positions, in addition to being educational for those enrolled, also provide an extra layer of assistance to teams which may already be over-taxed or stretched thin. By handling administrative tasks, for example, students are allowing campus police to prioritize response to serious incidents on campus.
In addition to providing an extra set of eyes and ears for campus patrol teams, having a roster of student patrol officers can be an additional form of community policing. Community-oriented policing practices, in which officers build relationships with people living or working in the community, are proven to result in a safer campus environment. One of the benefits of enlisting the help of students will be an additional understanding of the needs and concerns of the community. Since students are deeply engaged in campus life, collaborating as part of a campus safety team is a a unique opportunity to build trust and promote understanding on campus.
Technology can help further empower students to take campus safety into their own hands. A campus safety app allows students to provide an extra layer of safety while traveling across campus. The app allows students to set a safety timer and designated guardian ahead of their walk. If the student using the app does not arrive at the pre-set destination during the allotted time, campus safety or local law enforcement will be informed. Implementing the tool will not only help students feel a sense of autonomy over their own security, it also can expedite response by providing a direct line to campus safety and providing location data, should an emergency situation arise.
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