Shooting still leaves lasting mark

Two years after the Feb. 14 shooting at Northern Illinois University, NIU police said increases in patrols, security checks and a text message alert system have made the campus safer.

“We do have more people patrolling as far as on foot or in the residence halls, and we do more building checks,” said Sgt. Alan Smith of the Northern Illinois University Police Department. “We also have a lot more training in terms of getting out and talking to the community about safety.”

Smith said the university also established a text message alert system after the shooting.

“If something happens we can send out a general message to everyone who is registered for it, and that’s for anyone, not just our students, (but also for) friends and family of students, and faculty.”

Similar to NIU, the University of Illinois established a text message alert system for emergency situations. It is one of several security measures that University Police Deputy Chief Jeff Christensen said would help during an emergency.

“The Division of Public Safety has been conducting in-service training for our police officers in the proper response to an active threat situation,” Christensen said. “This training involves the tactics necessary to address such a threat and protect our campus community.”

Christensen added that after the NIU incident, UI police purchased additional field equipment as a precautionary measure to supplement their additional training. He said all of these methods have proven to be very effective in maintaining safety.

“In my opinion, the manner in which our campus works together and shares information concerning potential threats or alarming behavior has been successful,” he said. “The processes that we have set up operate effectively.”

Smith said the new security policies at NIU have also proven effective, and the feedback from students has been positive.

“February 14 is one of those things where students look at it and feel safer because of what we’re doing,” he said. “Before we would do something like check IDs at the building entrances, and we would have some that would resist. Now they understand it’s for their own safety.”

Smith mentioned that while officials check IDs, other security measures like metal detectors are not in place in their buildings.

“We don’t do metal detectors. Only during our large parties. It’s just one of those things we don’t do,” he said.

Christensen agreed that a specific, credible threat would need to be present before metal detectors would be considered at UI.

“First of all, would that stand as an effective, needed and cost-efficient method of deterrence? Logistically, with the number of buildings and classrooms along with required personnel it would be very difficult,” Christensen said.

David Chasco, director of the School of Architecture, agreed that logistics need to be taken into consideration for the safety of a large campus, focusing specifically on building layouts and security accommodations.

“When you have security incidents sometimes it’s very tough to defend against that,” Chasco said. “What you are trying to avoid is creating any dark hallways, any dead ends, or any nooks in which individuals could hide or could trap students.”

Chasco added that some of the newer buildings on campus are composed of more glass, a design feature that allows outsiders to look into a building, as well as insiders to see who is approaching.

“Your newest buildings, whether it’s the Siebel Center or the Business Instructional Facility, are going to respond to the most recent code changes. There’s that sense of safety and security and that nobody can hide,” he said.

Despite the new security and code developments in progress, Chasco stressed the importance of student familiarity with their surroundings as a way to increase safety.

“A student should get to know a building they are in,” he said. “Know where the exits are and how to quickly exit, not just for a security reason.”