Overhauling a Department Despite the Odds
Here’s how this year’s winner of the Campus Safety Director of the Year, Higher Education award transformed his agency while overcoming significant challenges.
Running a campus police or security department is not for the faint of heart. Just ask Nicholls State University Chief of Police Craig Jaccuzzo. In his nearly nine years at the institution, he and his department have had to manage the evacuations from four hurricanes, a demonstration by the Westboro Baptist church, huge budget cuts, reductions in department personnel and many other obstacles.
Despite these seemingly overwhelming challenges, Jaccuzzo has been able to completely overhaul his police department through training, upgraded technology and hard work. It is for this reason that Jaccuzzo has been named Campus Safety Director of the Year, University Sector.
Participation in Campus Planning Leads to Security Upgrades
When Jaccuzzo arrived at Nicholls State in 2004, he encountered a department that was little more than a security guard service. The school’s police force, if you could call it that, was not able to perform to the standards of their peers.
“The police officers had a station wagon with one blue light,” the chief says. “Their radio was the same one used by hunters. There wasn’t any standardized equipment or fleet for them to perform their duties to the same standard as the law enforcement officer next door.”
At the same time, the university was in transition. The campus had a new president, and there were a lot of new construction and renovation projects taking place. This provided Jaccuzzo with the chance to work with the school’s physical plant, president and vice president on many aspects of security and public safety.
“The opportunity knocked for me to take a facility that was going to be demolished and use inside labor to build a new police department,” he says. “The entire building was gutted, and we went from a 900 square foot [police station] to right around 8,000 square feet.”
Jaccuzzo’s involvement in the school’s construction and renovation planning also enabled him to upgrade the campus’ video surveillance, access control and emergency communications technologies. Now the residence halls have a card access control system that can be audited. Access control is currently being installed in Nicholls State’s academic facilities.
The dorms and other areas of campus also have new video surveillance cameras. So far, 350 cameras have been installed. Video and access control data are used to track missing persons and prove (or disprove) cases.
Jaccuzzo also lobbied to increase the number of call boxes on campus. Previously, the school only had 16 boxes installed. Now the university has 53 solar-powered CALL24 call boxes that provide dispatchers the location of assistance and emergency calls. Additionally, calls can be heard by campus police officers while they are in their patrol vehicles or while they are on foot patrol (via their portable radios). The call boxes also act as an external PA, so the police department can make emergency announcements.
The police department’s two-way radios and dispatch systems were also completely overhauled, as was its records management system.
Chief Finds Creative Ways to Fund Improvements
Considering the amount of technology upgrades Jaccuzzo and his department were able to acquire, one might think they had an endless supply of funding. Not so.
Since the economic downturn, Jaccuzzo’s budget and staffing allotments have decreased 17%-23% each year. Because of this, the chief had to find other ways to fund his equipment upgrades and officer training. Grants and relationships with other agencies have been his primary source of financial support.
“As a result of his abilities to seek assistance from outside agencies and compete for grant funding, he has been awarded the most grant money ever in the history of the police department,” says Nicholls State Police Sgt. Gary Tullis.
Dr. Eugene Dial, who is Nicholls State’s vice president of student affairs and enrollment services, attributes Jaccuzzo’s success to his positive approach. “It’s: ‘If it needs to get done and this resource isn’t available, we’ll identify other resources to get it done.’”
One thing that helped Nicholls State win grants was the fact that when hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 and hurricanes Ike and Gustave struck the region in 2008, universities in Louisiana were used as hubs for the processing of storm evacuees. This highlighted the value of the services provided by institutions of higher education during emergencies.
As a result, Jaccuzzo claims, “We were able to posture ourselves as a fair competitor for grants from the local community, state and federal government. I think there was a recognition that the universities offered great resources and were a focal point to getting everyone together to command the situation. We showed our importance and our participation during the storms, so we were able to get $80,000 from a regional state grant [for radios and other communications equipment].”
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