A tradition of safety
A tradition of safety

Apr 1, 1999 12:00 PM
Carol Carey

One of the country's most prestigious and oldest universities is taking a comprehensive, aggressive approach to crime on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood.

Founded by Ben Franklin in 1750 and considered the nation's first university, Philadelphia's University of Pennsylvania has seen street crime drop by 22 percent and campus robberies decrease by more than 50 percent since a security improvement program was implemented three years ago.

The Ivy League school's extensive Division of Public Safety oversees an array of security operations, including security systems, educational outreach programs and the University Police Department, which patrols the campus and some 80 city blocks.

U-Penn Public Safety spearheaded the effort three years ago to expand security on the 160-building, 262-acre campus with 22,000 students and more than 23,000 employees, making it the largest private employer statewide, says Thomas Seamon, vice president for public safety.

One of the top-ranked schools nationwide, the University is home to the Wharton School, one of the top three business schools, and the School of Nursing, one of the top two nursing institutions. The schools of Arts and Sciences, Law and Medicine are ranked in the top ten.

The 25-year-old University Police Department was enlarged to the point of becoming the largest private police department in Pennsylvania, Seamon says. More than 100 armed, sworn officers comprise the University Police, who must complete a formal training program under the state's Municipal Police Officer's Training Act.

"Having such a large university police department enhances safety for all the citizens in the area, not just students," Seamon says. "The university police have (concurrent) jurisdiction with the City of Philadelphia Police Department."

School police have a big job Part of the recent security expansion included decreasing guard supply companies from five to one. More than 200 SpectaGuard security officers patrol the campus and neighborhood. They are stationed in buildings, conduct patrols on and off campus, and provide security at special events.

Also part of the expansion was an ambitious electronic security program that included an expanded access control system, enhanced CCTV surveillance, an enlarged and improved network of emergency telephones that are seen around campus in yellow boxes topped with blue lights, and expansion of a multi-purpose, one-card system.

Providing safety in an urban locale "We've made some really significant inroads," Seamon says. "This has been a strategic, coordinated program. The University realized we needed a safe area in order to continue attracting students and staff, and its efforts, which include participation with the City of Philadelphia in a Business Improvement District, are causing a renaissance in the area.

"We're in the middle of an urban area with no physical barriers between the campus and the public streets. We probably have the largest police security operation of any university in the country. We go to extraordinary lengths to provide safety and security."

Security Technologies Group (STG), Gaithersburg, Md., integrated the 3-year-old system. As ongoing security services and new projects cost millions of dollars, U-Penn officials hope that the effort to standardize, increase and upgrade electronic security will save labor costs, Seamon says.

"I think, initially, there was a great investment in increasing personnel," he notes. "Now, with the electronic security upgrades, we're further cutting down on crime, such as property crime. The electronic security program will enable us to reduce expenditures on personnel eventually, and contain the spiraling cost of labor," he says.

LAN provides backbone of system An existing LAN using an Ethernet protocol on an extensive fiber-optic network has provided a ready-made infrastructure for the security upgrade, which includes installation of a Sensormatic Software House C--Cure Plus access control system with autonomous Advanced Process Control (APC) panels.

"Each panel can hold our entire PennCard data base, which holds 80,000 records," says Christopher Algard, associate director of security services.

Signals from the control panels are transported to a file server at PennCom Center, U-Penn's security control center. An RS-232 cable runs from the computer's serial port to a Radionics Series 6500 burglar alarm receiver, linking the alarm and access control systems. A Software House integration package allows the breached alarm points to appear on the same screen as the access control program.

The Radionics alarm system is composed of a series of alarm panels to which the individual alarm devices, such as door contacts, are connected.

More than 50 of the Software House APC panels are installed on campus to control between 130 and 140 Continental Instruments readers in more than 30 buildings. Most alarm field devices for both the access control and burglar alarm systems are made by Sentrol Inc., Tualatin, Ore. Algard estimates that 450 Radionics burglar alarm panels have been installed, bringing the total number of alarm points for burglar alarm and access control systems to more than 3,300.

Plans call for an access control system expansion this year to include installation of 70 card readers in the University's 300,000-square-foot Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, with 2 million artifacts. Also slated to be installed at the museum are 50 Sensormatic surveillance cameras.

Each building with an APC panel will have between 16 and 24 readers after the expansion, Algard says. Card readers also control perimeter doors and internal restricted areas. The system has been installed in buildings housing classrooms, dormitories, research facilities and athletic facilities.

Security officers are on duty around the clock at each residence hall where freshmen are required to live. To gain entry, co-eds present multi-purpose Schlumberger cards to guards for verification.

U-Penn plans to expand electronic security so that one guard can patrol several buildings. Algard estimates that dormitory guard positions cost $2 million a year. Also, an enhanced CCTV program is under way, and biometrics systems are being tested. The Division of Public Safety is using one 800-student dorm to test a two-door portal by BVI, Trevose, Pa., with a vestibule containing a biometric hand recognition reader by Recognition Systems Inc., Campbell, Calif. Students were given the choice between the portal or the guard, and 300 chose to enroll in the portal system, Algard says.

An existing access control system by General Meters Inc., Colorado Springs, Colo., covers 70 security access points and 20 access points for dining and financial services. Access points are located at residential and recreational buildings, libraries, a computer information center and computer labs. The system operates from a computer at the PennCom Center and runs across a Novell network in a DOS environment, says Frank Neithammer, director of campus card services.

Cards combine mag stripe, chips Students use multi-purpose Penn-Card with both a magnetic stripe and a chip that allows access to certain buildings, such as residence halls, and reduces the number of cash transactions students must make.

The PennCard can give students access to a $1,000 credit line, and a series of 22 Cash Value Centers (CVCs). The CVCs enable card holders to transfer cash values to their cards from bank accounts. They use the PennCards to make purchases at dining services, the book store, snack bars, vending machines and other campus merchants. The cards also can be used at copy machines and laundry services.

About 40,000 annual cards are produced on two Kanematsu Nisca printers at the 480-square-foot PennCom Center, which has four employees. The cards are printed on a Nisca PR5100 PVC printer and laminated on a Nisca PR5101 overlaminate station.

Photos are digitally stored in a data base through Episuite software by G&A Imaging Inc., Hull, Quebec, Canada. Data for the magnetic stripe is encoded through the Episuite software and appears on the card. Updated data from the Oracle database software is transmitted regularly from the human resources department to the PennCom Center's Gateway computer. This data, in turn, is downloaded to the C--Cure Plus access control software system every two hours, keeping data current for both old and new access control programs.

Data appearing on the chip portion of the card is input through another device, a Schlumberger Sitemaster, which initializes the chip. The Sitemaster contains a keyboard and a slot in which to slide the card. It is the chip portion of the card that enables users to access the CVCs.

A Videolabs Inc. FlexCam I.D. camera photographs users. A capture board by Integral Technologies installed inside the computer and attached to the camera by cable captures photos and stores them to the hard drive.

Offering protection on campus and off Securing a large university may be a daunting task under any circumstances, but securing one that has major city streets with commercial properties is particularly challenging. University Police have an authorized territory surrounding the campus, but they can do little to protect its 16,000 students who live outside the boundaries, such as a Wharton School student who was murdered in her apartment last May.

The U-Penn neighborhood is considered a "medium" crime area, with low incidents of crime on campus and a higher rate of crime in surrounding areas, Seamon says. The Division of Public Safety's plans call for camera and emergency telephone coverage of all intersections within the territory.

Currently, the university uses both traditional, Gai-Tronics hard-wired phones and newer, solar-powered Comarco Wireless Technology cellular phones with battery back-ups. More than 30 cellular phones are currently in place, and the Division of Public Safety is planning to install 24 new ones each year until the campus has 100-120 emergency cellular phones.

The campus currently has a total of about 250 phones, including the cellular phones, says Stratis Skousalos, director of security services. The emergency phones are located at reception desks in university residences and elevators, laundry rooms and rooftop lounges.

Calls made through U-Penn's emergency 511 system go to receivers at the PennCom Center for hard-wired and cellular phones.

U-Penn has outsourced PennCom Center's operations to MCI International Public Safety Group, Lawrenceville, N.J., which provides 18 staff members who man the center with a minimum of five people 24 hours a day. But overall responsibility for the center still rests with the Division of Public Safety.

When emergency calls are received at PennCom Center, they are forwarded to a University Police dispatcher. PennCom Center also receives alarm signals from the access control, burglar alarm and life safety systems and the video signals from about 40 of the 300 campus cameras. The other cameras are part of stand-alone systems. Plans call for an American Dynamics switcher to be interfaced with the C--Cure Plus access control software this year, facilitating the integration of CCTV and access control.

"We've successfully installed one Sensormatic 360-degree pan/tilt/zoom camera and plan to put in eight more of these on campus intersections by June," Algard says. "Within the next 12 to 18 months we hope to have 20 of these cameras installed at the most heavily used intersections. Beyond that, we hope to have camera coverage at other intersections within our patrol area. " About 90 percent of the fiber-optic cable is underground, he says.

Positions at PennCom Center include call takers, radio dispatchers and alarm monitors, who manually relay information from the C--Cure program to a police dispatcher. It is hoped that within the next 12 months a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system will help automate the process.

In addition to upgrading systems and staff, the Division of Public Safety sponsors educational programs for students and staff. The Division's Special Services Department provides crime prevention and safety education, victim support services, investigations and police community relations. The department provides more than 120 crime prevention seminars each year.

In addition, students can obtain devices from the Division of Public Safety to help thwart robberies or assaults. They can borrow electric engravers to mark valuables with social security or driver's license numbers. And they can borrow whistles to carry as a precaution, as part of the Whistle Alert Program.

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