A wealth of history is secure at Brown University
A wealth of history is secure at Brown University

Feb 1, 2001 12:00 PM

Colleges and universities with long histories - such as Brown University in Providence, R.I. - often possess an aura of timelessness, as if they have always been here and will always remain. It is difficult to imagine any resemblance between today's Ivy League university and its beginnings 228 years ago as a new college with a limited curriculum and limted resources.

Today the school - which bears the last name of Nicholas and Joseph Brown who helped secure the college's home in Providence - is a modern Ivy League university housed in historical buildings. If it suggests an aura of timelessness, it is actually as timely today as ever, bearing the unmistakable stamp of the modern era.

Brown University is located in an urban area that, like other major inner-city areas, is not without its problems. Therefore, the university's buildings and their inhabitants must be protected to ensure safety and security. This responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Department of Police and Security.

Chief of Police Paul V. Verrecchia has been with the university for almost two years. Previously, Verrecchia was with the Providence Police Department for 22 years. At one point, he was in charge of a unit that specialized in bias-related crimes. His department was one of the first in Rhode Island to charge offenders with bias crimes under a then-existing statute for such crimes.

With a staff of 79 and a $3.5 million yearly budget, Verrecchia is responsible for the overall public safety and security of the university, as well as for parking management, access control and surveillance. His staff is a combination of sworn police officers and security personnel.

"Policing is unique at Brown because the university is so urban. All the streets that run through the campus are city-owned. There are no private streets so we cannot use any fencing. It is therefore a challenge to keep the university safe," says Verrecchia.

Two safety programs - which are run by employees and student volunteers - have been put in place. These programs include a shuttle bus service and Safe Walk - which has been in existence for 25 years.

Students who volunteer for Safe Walk place themselves on-call and carry radios at all times. Anyone who feels uncomfortable walking alone through the campus may call the security communications center, which immediately dispatches two students to walk with them.

More than 150 vandal-proof blue light phones, made by Raintech, are located around the campus. When the emergency button is pushed, they become a direct link to the Department of Police and Security. The blue light also flashes in strobe mode. Each phone has a locator, and can be tracked from the security command center. Students who have something to fear can push buttons on each blue-light phone they pass - informing security of the direction they are traveling so that officers can be dispatched.

The access control system at Brown University was installed by Mac Systems of Avon, Mass. Adam Thermos of Strategic Technology Group, Milford, Mass., was the consultant on the project. "The system has 30,000 people in its database, which is backed up by battery or generator with an eight-hour capacity. It averages 185,000 to 190,000 transactions per week, and is designed to fail-secure and not open. This means that during a catastrophic event, doors will remain locked. A restricted key override is available - but it's not in circulation," says David Cardoza, card access manager for the department of police and security.

"The success of the system is due to weekly meetings of facilities management, locksmiths, residential staff security department and the ID card management staff that were instituted when we first brought it on line. These meetings have continued and have become a sounding board for any potential "glitches" in the system, and a forum for determining future improvements," adds Arthur J. Gallagher, former director of residential life at Brown University, and currently vice president at Johnson and Wales University, also in Providence.

The meetings cover weekly reports of door activity and determine nuisance alarms and hardware failures in order to keep the system at peak efficiency.

The Software House C-Cure 1 Plus system is used throughout the Brown campus, which encompasses 40 residential dormitories and 41 academic and administrative buildings. There are more than 1,500 monitored points throughout, with 467 card readers employed at strategic locations. Many of the monitored points use motion detectors, as well as magnetic contacts on windows, and panic alarms. Buildings are linked via a live TCP/IP campus network 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All equipment in the field is plugged-in "live" on the network - i.e., all alarms (door, window, panic devices and access control stations) are received immediately - in real-time. They come into two different sites simultaneously: the main communications center and the police and security station.

The year the card access system went on line, burglaries at the university dropped by 75 percent. Areas where card access is used include the medical research lab, residence halls, student and faculty libraries, science buildings, athletic facilities, as well as after-hours access to administrative and academic buildings. Certain high-security areas - such as the animal lab, and medical experimentation - use added password protection. Some of these locations limit access to only one or two authorized persons.

The fully integrated Sensormatic system is also used to create student and employee ID cards and to file biographical data on each individual and his/her related privileges. The process helps to create "checks and balances" because privileges are created by department chairpersons. For example, the chairman of the chemistry department determines what privileges an employee or student will have within the chemistry building, etc. The cards are created through the use of a Sony video camera and are captured on a Sensormatic Ultravision badging station. The department incorporates three stations.

Mechanical locks used around the campus are all polished brass to fit into campus decor, and are from Von Duprin, and Folger Adams.

Sixty-eight CCTV cameras - suppliers include Sony, Panasonic, Silent Witness and Kalatel (pan-tilt-zoom domes) - are located in public areas throughout the campus. An additional 35 cameras are currently being procured, and will be online by the end of April 2001.

The communications center houses a combination of Sony and Panasonic monitors. The current system employs a Robot multiplexer. It is anticipated however, that the system will be replaced by a proposed fully digital system - images will be stored on hard drives rather than on tapes. The new system will be at remote sites and within the communications area.

The staff consists of 25 police officers with the power of arrest, but who do not carry firearms, and 21 security officers. Police officers are graduates of the Rhode Island Police Academy. All police and security officers receive in-house training, which includes a six-week field training program. They also attend a 40-hour course at the Rhode Island Public Safety Training Academy located at Bryant College, Smithfield, R.I. Police officers wear navy blue uniforms with red trim. Security officers are dressed in white shirts with blue slacks that incorporate a powder blue trim.

A recent incident at Brown attests to the capabilities of the card access system. A disgruntled student smashed a card reader because he was having trouble getting into a residence hall. However, because the reader recorded information from the student's card, the department of police and security was able to track him down, and the student had to pay for the broken card reader.

Another incident in which the use of card technology benefited the department was a student-on-student assault. Police and security personnel were able to identify the assailant because he had to use his card to gain entry into the victim's residence hall. The assailant was arrested, charged and subsequently expelled from the university.

There are more than 1,500 monitored points throughout the Brown campus, with 467 card readers employed at strategic locations.

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