Sunday, April 29, 2007

"Experts" Hawk Old Answers on Campus Security

Experts contacted by the Associated Press offer advice from a bygone era to today's college students who wonder about campus security in the aftermath of the massacre at Virginia Tech.

Amazingly, students are told to follow the same ineffective guidelines as in the past. It's almost like a doctor recommending to a patient the placebo over the medicine:

How good is the on-campus mental counseling and how many students are using it?

The AP notes that about 13% of all students and an impressive 25% of liberal arts students use mental health services, but doesn't address whether such numbers should reassure students or drive them to look elsewhere.

The killer at VT was a participant in such a program. Didn't help.
Look at campus crime statistics.
The AP offers the helpful thought that "in some categories, a high number isn't necessarily a bad thing." Nor is a low number necessarily a good thing.

Virginia Tech was a particularly peaceful campus until the day it wasn't. Didn't help.
Think about security on a campus visit.
Do rooms have deadbolts?

Don't worry if they don't, the shooter at VT brought his own. Didn't help.
Get information on the campus police force.
The AP suggests that students ask whether the campus police force is accredited by the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and that if so the student can take some comfort.

The campus police at Virginia Tech are one of 39 with such accreditation. Didn't help.
Ask about emergency communications.
The AP acknowledges the limits of technology here, that emails, IM and texting are not the complete answers and suggests consideration of sirens.

Those campuses that kept their 1950's air raid sirens, emergency rations and wardens will be on the fast track here. Getting the victims all together in one place will cut down on the wasted time.
Finally, the one recommendation that AP didn't make is the one that is proven to be the single most effective for personal security and for reduced violent crime.

For that, students and their parents need to ask:
Are legally armed civilians, professors and administrators allowed to have their personal firearms on campus? Or, like Virginia Tech and the University of Washington the month before, are the bad guys the only ones that can?
The evidence is indisputable that school and other Gun Free Zones attract killers and that including civilians in the equation of their own security significantly improves the odds of never having to act defensively. Bad guys go where their odds are best. Too often today, that means a school.

For the one state where the answer is an unequivocal Yes to student protection and where campus rampages are unknown, check out Utah.

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