How safe is Broward College? Examining Campus Safety

Michael Gennaro 

North Bureau Chief

In the wake of the Parkland massacre that occurred last year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, staying safe at school has surely been a thought that has crossed the mind of every student in America.

Federal law mandates that colleges and universities must disclose information about crime on campus, and the 2018-2019 Broward College Annual Security Report released in October of last year shows a glowing record for Broward College.

According to this report, most crimes committed on campus in the last three years are relatively minor. Across the four main campuses at Broward College (North, South, Central and Downtown), there have been zero instances of murder, rape, manslaughter or statutory rape in the last three years. In that same three-year time frame, no weapons violation arrests have occurred, and only four instances of robbery and one aggravated assault have occurred across the four main campuses.

According to the data, campus safety has largely done an impeccable job at making Broward College safe. But how do they do it?

The Observer reached out to campus safety officers and toured the Security Operations Center for the Department of Safety, Security & Emergency Preparedness (DSSEP) to get an in-depth peek at how campus safety works so effectively.

Broward College has more than 400 cameras and 598 keycard access doors across its campuses, and that number is steadily rising. More officers than ever are patrolling school grounds. The Security Operations Center can see high traffic areas with their cameras and even lock down some buildings remotely.

Jace Smith, the District Director/Captain of DSSEP, went into more detail on some of the ways that Broward College is staying ahead of the curve and being proactive to keep students safe. Smith thinks that officers are doing a great job, but he still wants new officers to undergo many more weeks of training in 2019 than in years past.

“We have highly trained, very capable officers now, but we’re going to kick them up to the next level with an expanded training program,” Capt. Smith said. “Officers will have a wider range of skills and capabilities when they respond to calls.”

DSSEP is also working closely with local police departments and SWAT units to get them to train directly at the college so they are more familiar with its layout in the event of an emergency.

“We work very closely with our law enforcement partners,” Jaeson Weber, a Director of Emergency Management with DSSEP, explained. “We encourage them to do their exercises and trainings at our facilities.”

“Davie PD SWAT team trains in all of our buildings. At North Campus, Coconut Creek PD trains in all of our buildings. We don’t want the first time they respond to our campus in an emergency to be their first time on campus.”

Lt. John Labandera, the head of safety at North Campus, confirmed that Coconut Creek Police Departent (CCPD) has been at North Campus regularly.

“I work closely with our CCPD school resource officers, and they have been instrumental in having ALL patrol officers with Coconut Creek come to the campus and familiarize themselves with it.” 

“We have 18 buildings spread out over 125 acres, and each building has a different number assigned to it. This can be confusing, so all of the patrol division has been visiting the campus regularly,” Lt. Labandera said.

New technology has also enabled Broward College to keep students safe in a unique way. The Rave Guardian app is a free security app available on both iOS and Google Play app stores. Weber describes it as a “virtual security officer.”

The Rave Guardian app can call 911 or the college’s Security Operations Center with the press of a button. A student can request a security officer to escort them to their car or class. The app can even notify the authorities the minute a student goes missing.

“Let’s say you’re going to class at 10. It takes you 5 minutes to get to your class, you set a timer for 5 minutes; if you do not check in at that five minute mark, whoever you selected as your guardians, whether it be SOC or your friends, co-workers or family, they will be notified that you didn’t check in,” Weber explained.

If a student turns location services on, the app can also be used to ascertain a student’s location in the event of an emergency, giving the authorities a head start that can save lives.

“It creates more communication capabilities for our students, faculty and staff and our campus safety,” Weber said.

Broward College provides safety officers and other safeguards, but the college also wants students to be prepared and better educated to protect themselves. 

In addition to watching out for suspicious characters or activity, every student should make sure their classroom has an emergency action plan. These are intended to provide instructions for a myriad of emergency scenarios.

“All of our classrooms have emergency flip charts,” Grant Gundle, the Associate Vice President of DSSEP, explained. “These are intended to be used ahead of time, not when something does happen, but it does give you guidance on what to do if we have certain types of scenarios occur.”

If a classroom doesn’t have an emergency chart, a quick call to campus safety can get one installed. They are mandatory for every classroom.

In addition to the emergency flip charts, students should be aware of the emergency phones in most classrooms. 

“For the most part, there are 2 buttons on the phone, one says ‘campus safety,’ the other says ‘911,’ so it can’t be misread. It’s the only phone in most classrooms,” Gundle said.

The college also puts on many events to get students interested in campus safety.

“Over the course of the year, we host probably upwards of 50 training exercises that are designed to engage people in the community,” Weber said.

“We do campaigns for stalking awareness,” Weber said. “We do shots fired on campus workshops every semester. We also have a lot of this training and information available on our website.”

Indeed, the Mybc website has tons of training videos on safety topics under the “Campus Safety and Security” tab. 

Students can also get involved with a new work-study position that will be available sometime in the next few months. This position will allow any student who is eligible for work-study positions to work closely with campus security to keep Broward College safe.

“Sometimes the student will work with officers, sometimes it will just be an alert student walking around with a radio looking at problems and getting the information to campus safety,” Capt. Smith said.

“We’re excited about getting more students in the department engaged in keeping the community safe,” Capt. Smith said. “There won’t be a dull moment. We want more students involved.”

Students can get information on upcoming safety events and trainings by reading “The Safe,” a security newsletter, or by asking at Student Life. Campus Safety can be reached at (954)-201-4357.

Photo: Laura Camargo, BC student who studies business administration and also works in Student Life, uses Rave Guardian app. Michelle Castano/The Observer