UMass to make $2M in safety enhancements - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

UMass to make $2M in safety enhancements

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UMass officials want parents of students to know they're doing everything they can to keep their kids safe.

The university released an extensive report Wednesday on the changes to security that need to be made.

Over the course of three years, the university will spend about $2 million upgrading aspects of their security, including how guests are allowed into residence halls and communication about reports of crimes.

In total, the third party group Business Protection Specialists made 87 recommendations in a 214 page study.

UMass police and officials say the details in the study should help keep the thousands of students on campus safer.

"Safety really should be everybody's top priority on campus," said UMass police Chief John Horvath. 

Horvath commissioned the report after police say a student was raped by four men in her dorm room last year.

Now changes are coming.

The report lays out shortcomings like placement of cameras saying, "...One could argue that the cameras are aimed in the wrong direction. Ideally, each door would be fitted with two cameras; one for capturing the image of persons entering and one capturing the persons exiting."

There are now plans to improve those.

But it's not only alarms and cameras that are the problem. UMass police cadets interviewed by the outside security firm say there's a complete lack of communication when it comes to reporting crimes, including the alleged rape of the student last year.

According to the report, "There are no major debriefings after major security incidents. RHS manager of security did not learn of an on-campus rape until he was contacted by the media."

The four men accused of that rape are not UMass students and police say shouldn't have had access inside the dorm.

Currently it's students that do much of the monitoring at the entrance of dorms. The report says it can be a problem with 40 percent of those students saying they've dealt with aggressive behavior by visitors.

The report points out, "The reliance on students may be beneficial from a cost perspective, but the trade-off is that other issues arise with this staffing model."

Among the changes are enhancements to dorm building access including special software for visitor management and panic alarms at security desks.

Horvath says he agrees with most of the study and his staff will continue to focus on safety.

"I live and breathe to keep people safe, that's what my sole purpose is here. I want the parents to know that we have this report, prior to this report coming day in and day out ... officers do everything in their power to make it safe," Horvath. 

The report did also highlight strengths of the security system like 24-7 locks on residence halls and the presence of more than 1,000 video cameras across campus.

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