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Security Concepts and Operational Issues
(Chapter 1   The Big Picture, Continued)

Designing the school security system

After identifying the risks or concerns at a noneducational facility, a methodical approach to the security plan would then examine possible solutions to each area of vulnerability from the perspective of:

Table 2

For any problem, it is necessary first to detect that an incident or problem is occurring. For example, when someone is breaking into a building, it is necessary that this act be detected and that information be supplied to the authorities as soon as possible. Next, this adversary must be delayed as long as possible so that the response force may arrive. A simple example of delay would be firmly bolting computer components onto large heavy desks, so that a thief is forced to use more time removing the bolts. Finally, someone, such as the police, must respond to the incident to catch the thief redhanded.

For a school environment, it is probably more appropriate to expand this model:

Table 3

See exhibit 1.3 for more detail.

Exhibit 1.03 The most appealing step in any school security system should be to convince the perpetrator that he or she should not do whatever it is he or she is considering, whether the action is perceived as too difficult, not worthwhile, or the chances of being caught are quite high. Clearly, most security measures employed in facilities are intended for the precise purpose of deterrence, whether it be to discourage a thief, a drug dealer, or an errant employee. (Note: Deterrence is not generally considered part of the security strategy for most high-risk government facilities; this is due in part to the fact that quite a bit of deterrence comes "free" with other security measures, and it would be difficult to attribute a lack of security problems to any particular deterrence effort.)

Exhibit 1.04 Unlike other facilities, where a perpetrator would be handed over to the authorities, and the consequences determined by law, a school often has the authority and/or opportunity to establish the consequences for incidents that occur on their campus. It is imperative, however, that schools do not assume authority that they do not have. Issues governed by law must be reported to the appropriate authority.

To illustrate the application of this model, consider the problem of nighttime breakins and theft in a school building. A model for the security strategy to address this might be:

Deterrence Close off the parking lot or driveways to vehicle traffic at night. Post signs that video cameras are in use on the campus (but only if you actually do have cameras). Use fencing strategically, but where fencing would be unacceptable, consider a barrier of thorny pyracantha bushes (exhibit 1.4). Allow a law enforcement officer to live on campus.
 
Detection Install an intrusion detection system in all school hallways, administrative offices, and rooms with high-value assets. Use motion sensors, magnetic switches on doors, heat sensors, and/or glass-break sensors as appropriate. Send alarm signals to the police, the officer on campus, and the school principal.
 
Delay Bolt computers and TVs to desks and walls so that removing them is difficult and time consuming.
 
Response/
Investigation
Police and/or campus security arrives on the scene, makes arrests.
 
Consequences Enforce consequences where possible and the school has the authority to do so. (This becomes an additional deterrent for the future, especially if nonsensitive pieces of information regarding the incident are released to staff, students, and the community.)

Schools do not normally have the opportunity for real-time detection and real-time response to security incidents; after-the-fact investigation is normally the best a school can hope for.

Although this model may not be appropriate for all aspects of security at a school, it can serve as a methodology for consideration. Its use can prevent some less-thought-out strategies. A true example of this is a large urban high school that was planning to purchase $100,000 worth of exterior cameras to combat nighttime vandalism being inflicted on the exterior of the building. This plan was halted abruptly when the school was asked who would be available to watch the monitors from the 40-plus cameras (detection) and who would be able to respond quickly enough to these sporadic and relatively small incidents (response). A better and cheaper alternate plan was devised that included using antigraffiti sealer on all brick surfaces, some strategically located wrought iron fencing that could not easily be climbed, and the replacement of a few particularly vulnerable windows with glass block.

 



Research Report:   The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools