Personal safety is a basic human need that must be preserved if the mission of the university is pursued – National Association of Student Personnel Administration Task Group
At Guardly we know the importance of reducing school violence and improving campus safety. On March 12, 2012, a tragedy was averted at the University of Maryland when a student was caught online threatening a shooting spree on campus. Preventing this heinous crime was nothing short of an act of heroism. However, while it may be heroic it also foreshadows wider and more complex trends which can help improve campus safety. This article examines these trends.
In March 2012 Alexander Song was arrested for posting online that he would go “on a shooting rampage tomorrow on campus,” and “hopefully…kill enough people to make it to national news.” The news that Song was captured instantly made national headlines and presented a great example of how good police-work and advanced technology can help improve campus safety. As CBS Baltimore stated, catching him “was a true collaboration between the university police and IT professionals on campus.” We at Guardly firmly believe that this interplay between breakthrough technology and sound security strategy can provide security professionals and university administrators with an opportunity to drastically reduce campus crime.
In the University of Maryland case, campus security effectively collaborated with the technology community in order to prevent this crime. Specifically, when police discovered the online threats made by Song on the social networking website Reddit, they immediately contacted the company in order to acquire his IP address. An IP address is a unique number which identifies the physical location of your internet connection. With an IP address in-hand, campus police were able to track Song’s address and he was arrested at 10 AM on March 12.
The significance of this digital footprint Song left cannot be understated. Our digital footprint is a complex mixture of IP-server hardware and vast deposits of social data filled into the multitude of different web services and social media sites. As a consequence, a person’s online identity is both less anonymous and more traceable. However, this improved access to a person’s information does not necessarily imply that campuses will be safer. Indeed, abuse of people’s rights on-campus is possible without adequate legal protections. What this explosion of personal data does imply, however, is that when combined with sound campus security strategy, data can be used as a technological tool to crack down on-campus violence; as was the case in Maryland .
While social media may be an important technological tool to improve campus safety, it is not the only. Specifically hardware upgrades can also help improve in-school safety. For example, York University has “322 emergency telephones, 121 ‘intrusion alarms’ for all residence exterior doors, electronic access alarm monitoring and automated report and Dispatch Logging Systems.” Like the university of Maryland, York has used technology, in the form of hardware upgrades in order to improve campus safety. A safety audit commissioned by York found: its Blue Light Emergency Phone Initiative and Indoor campus safety phones helped contribute to students feeling less isolated on-campus. This is because emergency phones allow students to have immediate contact to security services in the event of an emergency.
At Guardly we believe that our smartphone application combines both these technological advantages and can exponentially increase the safety of students on campus and help reduce school violence. Specifically, Guardly allows users to create custom social profiles which first-responders can use to effectively manage an emergency. Furthermore, Guardly employs advanced GPS technology in order to pin a user’s profile to a specific location helping emergency personnel improve their response times when a student sends out a Guardly alert. By using technology to improve campus safety, Guardly is addressing a glaring need on university campuses. Thus, when we hear heroic stories, such as how security professionals and the IT community helped prevent the Maryland shooting, it should give us pause and help shape our judgement for how we can work to improve campus security worldwide.
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Guardly provides mobile safety solutions for reporting and managing enterprise and public safety emergencies.Our safety apps act as personal emergency phones that transmit real-time indoor/GPS location, and provides two-way communication with private security, 911 authorities and safety groups using our real-time platform for emergency incident monitoring, management, communication and response.
- Read our customer campus safety study showing how Guardly helped improve emergency response times by 44% at a school.
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