DPS Updates Campus Security for Fall
Published: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 01:08
The Department of Public Safety followed through this summer on a promise to improve campus security made in response to heightened threats after last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon.
Chief of Police Jay Gruber announced that there would be an increased number of officers on campus, among other security updates, in a campus-wide email April 19. This summer, improvements to campus security included updated closed-circuit TV cameras, the new EmergenSee segment of the Georgetown mobile app and behavior pattern recognition training for plainclothes officers, he said.
“The Boston Marathon bombings reminded us we’re not immune to terrorist acts. It really helped reinforce the fact we need to make enhancements to keep our community safer,” Gruber said. “It provided the impetus to get these projects moving forward.”
However, over the summer, the number of burglaries at Georgetown and in the surrounding neighborhood rose, with 10 burglaries of unlocked apartments and houses reported in August.
“We always have some level of crime in the community, but unfortunately the opportunity for that crime has spiked,” Gruber said. “Our student population over the summer hasn’t heeded warnings to keep their doors locked.”
Gruber said he expects the level of crime to subside as the regular student population returns to campus and advised all students to lock their doors.
Gruber was also confident that improvements to campus security would keep crime in check. DPS updated approximately 30 percent of closed-circuit TV cameras on campus over the summer, replacing cameras that were broken or had low picture quality.
The implementation of behavior pattern recognition training for plainclothes officers from the DPS Community Action Team would be applicable to both criminals and terrorists, Gruber said.
“It takes profiling out of the picture, because you’re looking at behaviors, not people,” Gruber said. “Behaviors of people who are potential terrorists are also seen in criminals.”
The partnership with EmergenSee emerged as an alternative to updating the blue light phone system on campus, a system Gruber said seemed outdated. Gruber reached out to the company, whose app is used by universities, high schools and businesses around the country, to adapt the program for Georgetown. The app uses Wi-Fi and GPS signals to live stream audio and video to DPS officers when activated in an emergency situation within the designated perimeter of Burleith, Foxhall and West Georgetown established by geo-fence technology.
Students can download EmergenSee through a link on the Georgetown mobile app. In addition to reporting emergencies back to DPS, students can add a contact who will also be notified in the case of an emergency. EmergenSee automatically calls DPS when launched unless the auto-start incident setting is turned off.
DPS beta tested the app throughout the spring semester and summer before its launch this fall. No students have used the app to report an emergency yet.
“The beta test went well. We found little things the company needed to do to enhance the product. Now, we have a product we feel comfortable with going forward,” Gruber said.
Gruber said DPS was able to pursue all security updates it had planned this summer.
“Enhancements to the video system and EmergenSee were big pushes for us to get moving before the academic semester,” he said.
Another minor change for the semester is an online lost-and-found system, replacing the former method that required students to fill out a card in the DPS office to inquire about lost items.