Better security too expensive for many schools

At the Seattle University security headquarters, officers keep constant vigil over their campus.

“We’re just always looking for anything out of the ordinary,” says officer John Irby.

Irby monitors dozens of surveillance screens, while the images of two school shootings in less than a week replay over and over in his head. “It’s the last thing you ever want to see happen, but the first thing you think about in this job,” he says.

Cameras on campuses are now as common as textbooks. Texting and electronic notification systems are becoming quite common, as well. A new generation of school security is now allowing police to lock inside and outside doors remotely if a shooter is spotted on or near campus. The military uses “gunshot detectors” that hear gun fire and can track where the bullets are coming from. Few schools, however, can afford such expensive technology.

“This is something every police, fire and public safety person thinks about all the time,” says Seattle University’s Executive Director of Public Safety, Tim Marron.

Experts point out that everything that could’ve possibly gone right at last week’s deadly shooting at Seattle Pacific University did go right. But even a rapid police response, immediate lockdown and a heroic student security staffer couldn’t save everyone, and that’s troubling.

“Most campuses in this state are not prepared to the level that SPU is,” says school security expert Erick Slabaugh.
Slabaugh’s company, Absco Solutions, outfits schools with security systems. He says SPU is one of the safest schools he’s ever seen, but most others still lag behind because of the cost.


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