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Back to Archives | Back to March 2008 Contents 

New Developments in University Safety

By Paul Cell, Chief of Police, Montclair State University Police, Montclair, New Jersey

Montclair State Quick Facts

  Student Enrollment: Nearly 17,000 students are enrolled at Montclair State, approximately 13,000 of whom are undergraduates. The university offers on-campus housing for approximately 3,500 students in eight residence halls that offer apartment-style and traditional rooming arrangements.

  Institutional Setting: The university’s campus is situated on 246 acres in the suburbs of New Jersey, spanning three municipalities and two counties. Montclair State is New Jersey’s second largest and fastest-growing university, making the most of its location in vibrant Montclair, just 14 miles away from New York City.

  Police Department: The Montclair State University Police Department is currently staffed by 25 full-time police officers, 4 police recruits, 10 dispatchers, and 1 administrative assistant. All officers are trained first responders (first aid, CPR, and automatic external defibrillator). Several officers are fully certified emergency medical technicians. The department’s jurisdiction includes all property the university owns, leases, or otherwise controls and includes all roadways that run through and are adjacent to the university. In addition to the main police headquarters on campus, the university police has a detectives’ bureau located in one of the residence hall complexes, the Village at Little Falls.

n 2005, Montclair State University (MSU) recognized the emergence of cellular telephones as the dominant tool for mobile communication among college students and saw this as an opportunity to tie academic, social-networking, and safety features into the technology. With a custom-built mobile communication network, the university partnered with Sprint and Rave Wireless to launch a campuswide mobile communication program for students. Among the academic and informational applications that became available with this program, a new opportunity arose for students to call on police protection when they are concerned about their personal safety.

Rave Guardian Mobile Application

Using a mobile application called the Rave Guardian, users can activate a timed Global Positioning System signal in their mobile phones, which will then appear on a satellite-based map at the University Police dispatch center. Without disclosing the identity or the exact location of the user, the police department is signaled within minutes of activation that a user has set the timer on a passive alarm. The timer, which can be set in user-defined increments, will turn into an active alarm (with sirens in the station, as well as map-based location, photo, and pertinent identification information of the user on a large plasma screen in the dispatch center) unless the user deactivates the alarm within the timed period. In an emergency situation, users can select the immediate activation feature. In an active alarm situation, police dispatch and mobile police units have the user’s information on hand for immediate location and visual identification of the person in need of assistance.

This technology has earned MSU national attention; in fact, the university was awarded the United States’ most prestigious campus safety award—the Jeanne Clery Campus Safety Award—for being the first university in the country to offer this service. The Jeanne Clery Campus Safety Award, established in 1994, is presented each year by Security On Campus, Inc., to honor colleges and universities along with individuals who have taken extraordinary measures to prevent violence, substance abuse, and other crimes in college and university campus communities across the United States.

In presenting the award to MSU president Susan Cole, Security On Campus, Inc., cofounder Connie Clery said, “Montclair State is the first educational institution in the country to pilot an exciting new mobile phone technology that turns students’ cell phones into a personal alarm device connecting them to a caring, sworn police force.”

Other Safety Measures

But it is also important to note that the award also cited the university for other safety measures, including instructing students about taking safety precautions while on campus. MSU also pioneered the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), which was the first university-based program of its kind in New Jersey and one of a handful on U.S. campuses, is a team comprising trained sexual assault nurse examiners, university police officers, and trained rape care advocates organized to assist victims of sexual assault. The SART is trained to provide victim-centered, compassionate, comprehensive care directly on campus. This team works closely with county and municipal agencies to provide comprehensive services to community members.

The university’s advancement in campus safety also includes a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), which was established in 2003. Members of the CERT give critical support to first responders in emergencies, provide immediate assistance to victims, organize spontaneous volunteers at a disaster site, and collect disaster intelligence to support first responder efforts. The university also sponsors an emergency medical service with its own ambulance. MSU has also been designated a county point-of-distribution (POD) center. The POD operation is supervised under a joint effort of the University Police and the MSU Health Center. This operation is located on campus to serve the university and the town of Montclair in the event of a catastrophe.

The integration of technology—in this case, using the widespread popularity of cell phones to create a personal safety network directly connected to the police department—is an important development in providing a safe environment for a campus community. It is an additional tool through which law enforcement agencies can connect with all members of the community, allowing for communication without intrusion and reminding students to take all possible safety precautions as they go about their daily lives.



From The Police Chief, vol. 75, no. 3, March 2008. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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