UMass hires New York company to review security measures

By Katie Landeck

In an effort to improve campus safety, the University of Massachusetts has hired a New York-based consulting firm to conduct a comprehensive review of security in all residence halls.

The firm – Business Protection Specialists, Inc. – will visit the campus during spring break and again in April to assess security protocols and equipment in the dorms, as well as how students and other members of the community utilize precautionary measures already put in place.

During these visits, BPS will tour the residential areas, in addition to meeting with students, residence hall staff, resident assistants and others to discuss security, according to UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski. He added that a survey will be distributed to residents in order to establish a baseline of data.

BPS is expected to make its initial recommendations on how the system can be improved in May, according to Blaguszewski. The review, according to a press release, will look at building access safeguards; policies, procedures and practices; the work of student security monitors; educational efforts surrounding security; and the relationship between Residential Life and the UMass Police Department.

“The true value of this project is to learn what BPS observes and recommends for improving the security processes now in place,” UMass Police Chief John Horvath said in the press release.

Recommendations from the review are set to be implemented by next fall, according to Blaguszewski.

University officials laid the groundwork for the review in October following the reported rape of an 18-year-old female UMass student in Pierpont Hall in the Southwest Residential Area. The student was allegedly raped by four Pittsfield men who are not UMass students. Three of the four men were reportedly signed in to the dorm by a UMass student who had previously been unknown to them.

The news of the incident left some students and parents concerned about campus safety.

In a campus-wide email sent out at the time, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy promised that “the university will conduct a comprehensive review of security in our residence halls. We must all work together to protect and ensure the safety of everyone on our campus.”

“The system has been successful for the most part, but when something this terrible happens, it is good to have someone from the outside take a look,” Blaguszewski said.

Blaguszewski added that he did not know the last time a comprehensive review of security was conducted, but that security in the residence halls is evaluated annually by the UMass police.

In recent years, “hundreds” of security cameras have been installed as well as a swipe card system that enables campus security officials to track who swipes into dormitories and when they do so, according to Blaguszewski.

But “there is always room for improvement,” he added.

The review – which will cost $39,584 – will examine security as a whole, not focusing specifically on how to prevent sexual assault.

“The review will examine security in a broader sense. If someone gets in a residence hall inappropriately there are a whole range of crimes that could happen,” Blaguszewski said. “It makes sense to look at the whole range.”

Blaguszewski listed theft, sexual assault and vandalism as crimes the review may address.

Five companies submitted proposals for the review, according to Blaguszewski. The committee reviewing the proposals was composed of Deputy Police Chief Patrick Archbald and representatives from Residential Life and the Dean of Students Office.

One company was eliminated from consideration because it didn’t meet the minimal qualifications, and another withdrew before it was time to make presentations.

BPS was chosen for a number of reasons, according to Blaguszewski. He said that one of the things that impressed Horvath the most was firm president Frank Pisciotta’s 22 years of experience in the field.

BPS has also worked with several other universities, including Bucknell University, the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, Cornell University and SUNY Oswego, according to the press release.

Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected]