The University of Massachusetts Amherst is hard at work on new and ongoing security improvements to campus residence halls to the tune of more than $1 million. The extensive overhaul is slated for completion by the end of 2016, with 60 of 87 recommended security improvements already completed.
Per UMass Amherst’s Residential Life website, the university plays home to 13,000 students living in 52 residence halls making it one of the largest on-campus residential populations in the country. To better safeguard its on-campus population, the university worked with an outside consultant to identify areas of improvement in residence hall security.
According to a report from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, UMass Amherst hired the New York based Business Protection Specialists in 2012 to evaluate and make recommendations to improve safety in its residence halls. The consultant was commissioned by the then UMass Police Chief and resulted in a 214-page report that laid out 87 recommendations. UMass has adopted all but five of the report’s recommendations.
As part of the overhaul, UMass will make safety improvements in the following primary areas:
Guest registration. The university will install personal computers for residence hall security monitor desks, new software for visitor management and improved enforcement on visitors with judicial bans, trespass notices and campus sanctions.
The new laptops installed in all residence hall lobbies are linked to a secure server that automates visitor management. The database is updated daily and monitors both on- and off-campus visitors to residents of each hall.
Residence hall layout. Improvements are slated for residence hall layouts in stairwells, main entrances and public restrooms, along with improvements to lobby and food service access areas.
Physical access improvements. Repairs will be made where there are door hardware deficiencies and nuisance alarms. UMass will also replace video cameras, implement ID validation using new software and make corrections to “weaknesses” at fire exits.
Per the Gazette, UMass’ system verified the identity of 968,690 residents entering campus residence halls and recorded the visits of 177,595 guests between September 4 and December 3, 2015. Of those guests, 146,717 were UMass Amherst students with the remaining 31,053 guests presenting other forms of identification.
UMass utilized technical staff in its Residential Life department to create the system’s hardware at a cost of $100,000. Other security projects completed include:
- $70,000 for software and programming
- $600,000 to evaluate and upgrade physical and technical systems in 16 residence halls
- $60,000 for KNOX-BOX units for local firefighters
- $82,000 to replace some 500 surveillance cambers in residence halls on a rotating basis
In the new year, UMass will spend another $541,000 across numerous physical and technical security systems in residence halls. UMass has also established a residence security hall working group, which convenes monthly to track the progress of the security upgrades recommended by Business Protection Specialists.