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SMC security needs examination

Staff Editorial | Friday, April 18, 2008

When a Saint Mary’s student in Regina Hall reported a trespasser on the roof of Regina Hall on April 5, it took the College’s security department two phone calls and approximately 15 minutes to send a security guard to the scene and investigate the reported suspicious activity.

For a department that is on campus to maintain the safety and security of its students, the fact that it took two phone calls for Security to arrive on the scene is unsettling. There are too many things that could have happened, too many things that could have gone wrong between the time of the first phone call to Saint Mary’s Security and the time an officer arrived at the scene. In this instance, Security dropped the ball and left the safety of the College’s campus in jeopardy.

Saint Mary’s Security needs to look into this problem, ask how it could have occurred in the first place and make sure this slow response doesn’t happen again.

Saint Mary’s mission states, “Safety and security on campus is of paramount importance to the College and is a major focus of certain departments.”

If this is the case, why are student needs not being met with immediate response and concern? Security personnel are employed by the schools to keep them safe. Any failure to respond to even the most minor threat undermines the confidence that students have in Security.

Saint Mary’s security should have sent multiple officers quickly to Regina Hall when it was reported that an unknown man was on the roof. If more than one officer had responded to the student’s phone call, the man may have been apprehended, for he was still on the roof when Security finally arrived, according to the student who placed the phone call to Security. But since it took two phone calls for Security and only one officer responded, the man had time to escape.

Last year’s tragic shootings at Virginia Tech and February’s shootings at Northern Illinois highlighted the importance of having an on-campus security force that reacts quickly to any call it receives.

Even though an event of that magnitude is unlikely to happen, the failure to quickly react to the event at Regina Hall shows that Saint Mary’s security needs to treat every threat equally.

The inability for Saint Mary’s security to respond to an unarmed, unidentified trespasser on a seemingly uneventful night casts doubts about their ability to respond to a crisis of a larger magnitude – be it a shooter, assault or robbery.

While Saint Mary’s is a much smaller institution than Tech, Northern Illinois and Notre Dame, basic principles of security should remain. Saint Mary’s should be well-equipped to handle such incidents because being properly prepared is the first step in crisis reaction.