Respect Your Fears, but Don’t Be Ruled by Them

Campus security pros must be the voice of reason and accurate information to balance out the ridiculous amount of fear-based messages we get every day.

Nothing angers me more than when I hear some campus security or law enforcement “expert” try to make a buck by lamenting that our world is getting more dangerous.

I recently saw a presenter who stood on stage in front of an audience, wringing his hands and crying crocodile tears because, according to him, the state of America’s campuses and children are getting worse every day. After about 50 minutes of this expertly-staged drama, he took a break to give his attendees the chance to buy his latest book. (It sold out.)

Is anyone else besides me concerned about this blatant misuse of fear?

Scare tactics are one of the oldest sales tricks in the book, but they are not appropriate in the campus security industry – or any industry for that matter. Not only that, when these “experts” unnecessarily freak people out, safety and security suffers because people who are in a state of panic usually don’t make good long-term decisions.

What’s worse is when those same audience members turn around and share the misinformation they’ve learned with other campus administrators and stakeholders, which damages their credibility, as well as the credibility of the rest of us.

Don’t get me wrong; fear is an important emotion to have when your life is in imminent danger. Your fight-or-flight instincts, which are generated by the most primitive part of your brain (the amygdala), will probably save you when you are being physically threatened. But when you are at an industry conference, listening to the radio in your car or watching TV at home, your life is not in danger. Don’t be swayed by the scare tactics that hijack your amygdala to get you to stop thinking.

Is there good reason to be concerned about the safety and security issues involving our schools, hospitals and institutions of higher education? Of course. That’s why Campus Safety magazine exists. Our goal, however, is to provide solutions based on the reality that most people aren’t murderers, rapists, thieves or criminals and get along remarkably well.

“Experts” who spout doom-and-gloom scenarios fail to acknowledge this reality, as well as all of the advances we’ve made in campus security over the years, including:

  • Greater awareness of and response to sexual violence on campus
  • Greater awareness of bullying and workplace violence and the improved prevention and response to these issues
  • Threat assessment teams doing a better job of identifying at-risk individuals before they can inflict harm on other people or themselves
  • Improved active shooter response tactics
  • Increased installation of physical security equipment and communications technologies that have made campuses harder targets and campus communities as a whole more aware
  • Stronger partnerships between campuses and local first responders that make responses to emergencies more timely and effective

These are just some of the advances we’ve made. I could go on and on.

The job for those of us in campus public safety is to be the voice of reason and accurate information to balance out the ridiculous amount of unnecessary fear-based messages we get every day.

Fear is a God-given instinct that has helped us survive for millions of years, but it must be balanced by the reality that we are truly blessed to be alive and have so many more opportunities available to us than ever before.

Let that truth, rather than fear, be your guiding principle.

Photo: Thinkstock


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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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