Bringing out the big guns

Unfortunately, there are even more guns on campus

I blogged last year on the acquisition of army surplus weaponry by campus security services at US universities. We also saw the purchase by Ohio State University of an armoured truck.

I thought this was perhaps all rather exceptional until seeing this story about the proportion of campus security teams which carry weapons:

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report released Tuesday, 75% of campus police officers were armed during the 2011-2012 school year. That is up from 68% in 2004-2005, the last time BJC conducted an analysis. The most recent report surveyed a mix of 900 public and private universities.

Overall, public universities were significantly more likely to have officers with full police powers, with 92% reporting they did, compared with 38% of private schools.

Ideal for building community relations

Ideal for building community relations

The suggestion seems to be that the number of shootings on campuses has influenced this arms race:

“It’s an evolution. Low probability, high-impact incidents like the violent situation at Virginia Tech obviously loom large in everyone’s thinking, but that’s not the only issue,” says Steven Healy, a former public safety director at Princeton University. “Do you want your own department to be able to respond to the full range of threats?”
Florida State University (FSU), which experienced a shooting this school year, recently received a Humvee. FSU Police Chief David Perry says the vehicle is useful not only for such emergencies, but also for responding to severe weather and as “a community-building tool to help educate people about what we do.”
The BJS report shows that violent campus crime is decreasing. The rate of violent crime dropped 27% between 2004 and 2011. Over the same time, the rate of property crime dropped even more, by 35%.

I really fail to see how weapons and armoured vehicles will help to build community relationships. They are surely much more likely to be inflammatory and lead to an escalation of any tension. While universities remain generally unable to ban guns from their campuses it is perhaps inevitable that there will be this pressure to tool up security teams. But it still seems extraordinary that three quarters of campus security staff are armed. Let’s hope things start to move in the other direction soon.

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