Thursday, December 1, 2016

Shining a light on college campus security

From recent reports of violence at Ohio State University and even to the not-so-distant horrors at Virginia Tech, colleges must be constantly aware of student safety.

The blue security light poles are one of the ways students can stay safe and connect with law enforcement in minutes. 44 blue emergency lights can be seen throughout the UIS college campus. In just a press of a button, law enforcement is paged and will show up in minutes.

"We think with the security poles, we call them code blues, they're also a source of light on campus and we would think that it would hopefully deter other type of activity," said Derek Schnapp of UIS. 

Schnapp says it’s giving students, who often walk across campus alone or at night, a feeling of safety.

"I was very glad to see these when I came to UIS because I know what they do," said Jonathan Camacho, a junior at UIS. “If something is happening you can push the button for help and there's immediate, or not immediate but very fast, response.”

But these blue lights could be on the way out. Some colleges in the U.S. have already removed them due to cost and the rise in cellphones.

Southwind Park in Springfield removed their poles earlier this year. "Technology became outdated,” said Park Police Chief Limey Nargelenas. “The cost for purchasing the technology and then for monitoring -- the decision was made to go ahead and remove them.”

Luckily, the Park Police says Springfield park crime is typically low. However, the blue light poles were out of service for about a year before they were even removed. "You can't leave them out here when they don't work. For somebody it could be a false sense of security that they can run to it, call and get some help right away," said Nargelenas.

With a rise in violent crime on college campuses, UIS says despite the cost, these lights still serve a purpose. "To maintain every year it costs about $15,000 a year. That does not include man hours that our police officers do a test on them every week," said Schnapp.

This story appeared on WICS Newschannel 20 on November 30, 2016.

Watch the story online.