North Park U. Improves Campus Security With MOTOTRBO Radios

Published: October 10, 2009

Located on Chicago’s north side, North Park University’s 3,300 students come
from around the world to live and study in an environment of diversity, faith, and
values. Graduate and special undergraduate programs also bring adult working
professionals to the campus in the evenings and on weekends. Founded more
than a century ago, North Park’s commitment to all of its students is to provide a
safe place to learn today to help them meet the challenges of tomorrow.

In the past few years, the campus has grown to encompass over four squarecity blocks that wind through the surrounding neighborhood, dotted with multistorybuildings and mature trees. When Dan Gooris, director of campus securityand former police chief of a northern Chicago suburb, first came to North Parkin 2006, he found an antiquated two-way radio system nearing end-of-life andunable to meet the demands of the campus.

“Our student dispatchers had a hard time reaching our officers and oftenwouldn’t receive a reply,” he says. “We had no way of knowing if the officershad received the message. We couldn’t tell if they were out of range, if thesystem wasn’t working, or if there was interference from the terrain or thefrequency we were using.”

With the university beginning to purchase buildings that were not alwaysadjacent to the main campus, the old radio system was pushed beyond itscapabilities and Gooris knew it was time to upgrade.

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“It’s a good neighborhood but it’s still an urban campus and it’s near publictransportation,” says Gooris. “People get off the bus and some wanderthrough the campus simply because of the beautiful landscape and peacefulenvironment.”

Solution: Moving to digital two-way radioCommunications
Gooris reached out to a trusted local Motorolachannel partner to discuss updating the university’sradio system. The channel partner recommendeda MOTOTRBO digital two-way radio system for anumber of reasons.

“It didn’t make sense for them to spend money totry and fix a system that would be obsolete in a fewyears,” says the channel partner. “Plus with theMOTOTRBO digital radios, they would only needone repeater to double the number of users on thesame frequency. The audio would be much clearerand they would be able to extend coverage all theway out to the athletic field nearly a mile away.”

The digital portable radios would also provide greatercommunications reliability with technology thatenhanced battery life, providing longer talk timethrough extended shifts.

North Park distributed MOTOTRBO portableradios to all members of its security staff, facilitiespersonnel, and to critical locations on campus,including the library, residence halls, and resourcecenters. Radios provided to the residence halls sit inchargers on the front desk and operate like a basestation controller, allowing the student front deskattendant on duty to quickly alert campus security inthe event of an emergency.

The radios have the capability to transmit andreceive private communications betweenindividuals or direct communication to all locationssimultaneously through group call, so that theinformation can be quickly passed to buildingoccupants.

Results: Reliability and improved campussecurity
Because North Park is an open campus, situatedclose to public transportation and in the midstof a residential neighborhood, security becomeseven more challenging. The ability for North ParkUniversity’s security staff to stay in touch or toquickly call for backup in the event of an emergencydepends on reliable communications.

“I have to know that the officer on duty is gettingthe message when we call,” says Gooris. “Withour MOTOTRBO radios, we know the message isnot getting lost, even if the officer is off campus. Iwouldn’t think of using any other product.”Expanded coverage beyond the campusThe MOTOTRBO digital portable radios providethat reliability with enhanced coverage that enablesclear communications throughout the campusand beyond. This reliability is especially importantbecause North Park offers a campus safety escortservice that extends out to a mile radius around thecampus. The shuttle vehicles, operated by campussecurity officers equipped with MOTOTRBO radios,deliver or pick up students from the city’s publictransportation, the athletic field, and other points inthe area.

“We have a lot of students who work off-campusor need rides to and from public transportationcenters,” says Gooris. “Last year we gave 575shuttle rides, many between midnight and 4 a.m.Kids can call anytime from dusk to dawn and we candispatch an officer knowing he or she will be able tocommunicate back to the campus as needed.”

Expanded coverage beyond the campus
The MOTOTRBO digital portable radios providethat reliability with enhanced coverage that enablesclear communications throughout the campusand beyond. This reliability is especially importantbecause North Park offers a campus safety escortservice that extends out to a mile radius around thecampus. The shuttle vehicles, operated by campussecurity officers equipped with MOTOTRBO radios,deliver or pick up students from the city’s publictransportation, the athletic field, and other points inthe area.

“We have a lot of students who work off-campusor need rides to and from public transportationcenters,” says Gooris. “Last year we gave 575shuttle rides, many between midnight and 4 a.m.Kids can call anytime from dusk to dawn and we candispatch an officer knowing he or she will be able tocommunicate back to the campus as needed.”

Collaboration facilitates ‘force enhancement’
One of Gooris’ priorities was to use the fundsprovided to gain the most value from the radios aspossible. Providing the facilities and maintenancecrews with radios enabled his security teamto further enhance campus safety throughcollaboration.

“Whether it’s someone stuck in an elevator, a floodon campus, gaining access to a building, or havingpower turned on or off in one of the buildings, theability to instantly communicate with our facilityengineers or maintenance crews has been a bigplus,” Gooris says. “In addition, they give us extraeyes and ears because they are always out there andcan alert us in the event that something needs ourattention.”

What’s Next – Taking steps to further enhanced student safety
Sometimes when the students call to report an incident they will trivialize the event, which does not createa sense of urgency on the part of the dispatchers. In other cases students might even hold off making thecall for a period of time, which creates the opportunity for a suspect to leave the scene. In both of thesecases, the students often inform the parents later that even though they reported the incident, the securitystaff did not react in an appropriate time frame.

In order to provide proof of accountability, Gooris plans to add a data application to the MOTOTRBO system.The application will allow him to document each call that comes in with information such as time of call,what the caller reported, action taken by dispatch and security staff, and call close-out. Gooris also plansto use the documentation to train the dispatchers to probe for more information about the incident todetermine the actual level of emergency as well as to provide security officers with situational awareness.The application will provide proof that the student dispatchers handled the call appropriately, securityofficers arrived on scene within a reasonable amount of time, and that the call was handled properly frombeginning to end.

“Universities are in the people business and we have to sell the safety of our campus,” says Gooris.”MOTOTRBO provides reliable communications that help us keep our campus safe.”

For additional information, click here.

Motorola October 2009 press release.

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