The Costs of Crime and the Benefits of Security Technology, Part 1

Here’s an estimate of what your organization might spend on access control and locks, as well as the lives, resources and money you could save as a result of the installation of these technologies.

This article is part one of a two-part cost/benefit analysis of locks and access control. Check out part two here.

One of the biggest challenges facing any school, hospital or college protection professional is demonstrating to other campus stakeholders the value of the various security and public safety technologies they want to adopt. Whether it’s a new or upgraded two-way radio system, emergency notification solution, video surveillance system or other technology, overcoming the perception that security is just a cost center can be daunting.

That’s why Campus Safety magazine is embarking on a new, year-long project to determine the actual costs of the security solutions that campuses frequently deploy, as well as the tangible and intangible benefits that are realized as a result of their adoption or upgrade.

RELATED: The Costs of Crime and the Benefits of Security Technology, Part 2

This first installment focuses on access control and locks. In this article, several end users, consultants and manufacturers in healthcare and education discuss the expenses their organizations have incurred, as well as the benefits they’ve experienced as a result of their access control and lock upgrades. These benefits could include the prevention of crime, apprehension of suspects, brand/marketing improvements, insurance rate reduction, improved student/staff recruitment and retention, and force multiplier benefits.

What is the Actual Cost of Campus Crime?
The first challenge when conducting a cost/ benefit analysis of any security solution, be it technical or otherwise, is to determine the actual financial damages that are the result of crime. Of course, there really is no way to put a dollar amount on a life that’s been cut short or has been permanently altered as the result of a traumatic event, not to mention the impact on others. That being said, assessing financial damages appears to be the only quantifiable way to measure the losses associated with crime – even if this method may seem cold and calculating.

Keeping that in mind, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in the United States, the actual cost of a murder is nearly $9 million per incident. The estimated social cost per rape, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, is $267,000. Despite these calculations, how those costs translate in a hospital, K-12 or university setting cannot be fully known or quantified.

Crime does appear to hurt K-12 student academic achievement and enrollment rates. A study released last year by Dongwoo Kim, a postdoctoral fellow for the University of Missouri and Louis-Phillippe Beland, an assistant professor of economics at LSU, found that student grades are negatively affected for up to three years following a school shooting. That same study also found that enrollment in grade nine decreased almost 6 percent after a fatal shooting on campus.

The Center for American Progress estimates the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting cost the school as well as the local and federal government about $48.2 million. Penn State officials say the Jerry Sandusky scandal cost their organization $92 million (although it’s difficult to say that any technology would have prevented the abuse in this particular case). It should also be noted that these numbers don’t take into account the damage these tragedies inflicted on the reputations of the institutions where they took place.

Murders and sexual assaults are the costliest crimes, but other incidents on campus also have a significant financial impact. According to the NIH, larceny/theft in the United States is estimated to cost (in 2008 dollars) $3,532 per incident, while vandalism is estimated to cost $4,860 per incident. In the case of vandalism at a large institution or district where it is common for many of these crimes to occur, the combined annual cost of these incidents can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It is estimated that vandalism [at Arizona State University (ASU)] contributes to over $200,000 annually in facilities costs due to graffiti, skateboarders, and facility or equipment vandalism,” says Laura Ploughe, who is ASU’s director of business applications and planning.

Integration of Technologies, Policies and Training is Key
The value of some security technologies, such as video surveillance, is fairly easy to demonstrate. Campus protection professionals regularly sing the praises of their security cameras because the images enable them to identify and apprehend suspects. If they need to justify their video surveillance expenditures to a hospital CEO, school board or university president, they just pull up the most compelling videos of suspects committing crimes on campus. If their own organization hasn’t adopted video surveillance yet, they can find examples online of security cameras capturing criminals in the act. The images practically speak for themselves.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
Contact:

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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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!

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