Delivering a safer campus

Delivering a safer campus

Universities have a duty of care to the staff, students and public that use their facilities for work, study, and enjoyment. Safety and well-being are an important role that is taken seriously to provide reassurance and confidence to everyone accessing a university campus.

Campuses are unique environments to protect, thanks to the mix of facilities they offer. Their buildings are often used for diverse public, private, commercial, and educational needs. And while some areas may be open access, other zones may well contain highly secure laboratories, innovation hubs and research centres that necessitate stringent security measures.

This is where surveillance technology comes in. More than just monitoring cameras, a unified surveillance platform can capture data and provide insights to improve the experience for everyone on campus. For example, it can help to better plan security patrols, improve the flow of people through areas, and even implement energy efficiency strategies.

Information points, social meeting points, and retail units can also be moved to locations that experience greater footfall, further supporting an improved campus experience.

The University of Sheffield: Making their university safer

One institution familiar with the need to keep people safe is the University of Sheffield. The first objective of its Security Policy is ‘To provide a safe and secure campus that will create and maintain a feeling of safety and security for all.’ Part of the prestigious Russell Group, the university is using surveillance technology to support this important objective.

Ranked in the top 20 best universities in the UK, it uses the Synergy software platform from Synectics to integrate its surveillance as part of its continued drive to maximise the safety and welfare of its students.

There are currently almost 30,000 students enrolled at the university. As it grows, so has its commitment to keep students, staff and the public safe on the centrally located sites. There are currently more than 1200 cameras across the campuses, and this number is only growing as more sites are connected.

Richard Yates, Head of Security at the University of Sheffield, said: “With 20 CCTV-trained operators, we needed a system that could be tailored to individual needs and preferences while assessing threats and risks across different sites. Ease of use was an important priority for us, so Synergy was the best option for the university.”

Safe and secure, on campus and beyond

The University of Sheffield is responsible for the welfare and safety of students, staff and visitors. It, therefore, needed a system that was smart enough to work across all sites and give an overview in a single front-end system.

CCTV plays a vital role in highlighting and tracking incidents like theft, assault, and mental health issues. In the past year alone, it has been used in more than 350 investigations, and the Synergy upgrade could open up more opportunities.

Richard gave an example: “Imagine we had a report of car theft on campus, but the person reporting it said the car could have been taken any time in the past week. Rather than search through seven days of footage which would use up vital time, we could go back one week to when the car was last seen, highlight it, and let Synergy track it until motion is detected. We could then share the footage with the police.”

The university uses evidence locker functionality to securely share evidence with law enforcement, and other bodies, while logging access for a full audit trail. The system can also match the evidence with information such as crime reference numbers and internal report numbers. In the past year, more than 50 incidents were authorised to be shared to South Yorkshire Police, insurers and internal groups.

Planning for the future with easy reporting

Ease of reporting is one of the platform’s key strengths. The University of Sheffield is accountable to multiple stakeholders, so being able to generate reports quickly is essential. Richard encourages his team to make the most of this functionality: “Our operational requirements drive the budget we are allocated. The data we use to show this needs to be accurate and fit for purpose. It also needs to be presented in an easy-to-understand way and quick to collate. Perhaps more importantly, being transparent allows us to be held to account by our students and public bodies like the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

The university has a 24-hour central control room on the main campus and a second one a few miles away, which can be used during an evacuation. In addition, it voluntarily adheres to the Surveillance Camera Code of Conduct and invites a third party to audit its practices. The Synergy platform provides vital assistance during the accreditation and auditing process carried out by SSAIB (Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board).

“Being audited and accredited can only be a good thing,” said Richard. “It means we are always on the lookout for ways to develop and improve, and everyone is confident that the systems we have in place are fit for purpose and used properly. This is increasingly important as we balance protecting students with their privacy.”

Furthering education

Continual training is important to keep the university’s operators up-to-date and competent and support the operators’ career progression. According to Richard, Synectics is always on hand for training and support, which has its benefits: “We want to learn the full capabilities of our platform and see different ways of doing things.”

The university is currently implementing ‘geofencing’ in some areas, so controllers will be automatically alerted if someone enters sensitive areas like secure research facilities. It is also looking at expanding capabilities by migrating its evidence to Synectics’ Cloud Evidence Locker, a secure digital platform which provides the same auditing capabilities as those on-premises.

Richard finished: “As a university, we want to keep students, staff, the public, and our intellectual property safe. Working with Synectics allows us to do this and supports us in our goal of being transparent and accountable.”

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