Baylor’s campus safety features extend past call boxes

Named one of the most secure colleges in America, Baylor University continues to stand ahead of the curve on safety innovation and proactive improvements to provide for the safety and security of our students.

Our Department of Public Safety has a highly committed staff of more than 100 personnel who are assisted by a large network of live security cameras, 24-hour patrols, 81 emergency call boxes and 152 emergency telephones.

A Tuesday Lariat Letter calling for more call boxes around campus implied that Baylor’s current campus safety measures are inadequate. I would instead ask that our campus community think outside of the box and look at the numbers.

Major universities like Nebraska, Georgia, Colorado and BYU have completely eliminated their call boxes, citing prank calls and non-emergency use that bogged down emergency services that must respond to every push of the button.

At the University of Texas – which was cited in the editorial – a study of a five-year period showed that in response to 1,832 call box alarms, there were only 42 instances that the caller remained on scene when the campus police arrived. And only two of those calls required additional law enforcement involvement.

Flat tires, non-emergency roadside requests, hang-ups and prank calls remain the overwhelming reasons for utilizing the call boxes, and a growing number of college campuses are opting to remove them all together.

Even so, Baylor sees value in having the call boxes, both as a visible deterrent to show a permanent police presence on campus and as a dependable, direct line to emergency personnel.

One suggestion from the editorial we wholeheartedly agree on is a need to continue educating our students, faculty and staff on effectively communicating with emergency services in a time of need or crisis.

Instead of adding ineffective and expensive call boxes that are seldom legitimately used and often pull our police officers away from strategic campus patrols, we are asking students to commit to a significantly more effective method to continue ensuring our safe campus community.

The BU Campus Guardian App was introduced as an all-encompassing method to offer the most effective means of communication between students, faculty and staff and Baylor police officers.

Essentially a portable emergency call box in your own hands, Baylor’s more than 20,000 daily visitors, students, faculty and staff have a direct line of communication in a crisis situation at their fingertips, with the ability to report suspicious activity, get updates on active crises or request assistance from emergency services – all from within their smartphone.

More than 2,500 users have already installed the app on their phones, with the number of tips reported and emergency calls made through the app continually growing as our campus becomes more aware of the incredible benefit and ease of the service.

As I like to say, it’s a 24/7, strong forward lean toward providing the best safety and security services we can to our community. You all deserve it, and we’re never going to reach a point where we get complacent or we’re satisfied. We have to stay ahead of the curve, and we believe that growing the BU Campus Guardian App is the most effective way to accomplish that mission.

Mark Childers

Baylor’s associate vice president for public safety and security.