How to Leverage AI

How to Leverage AI

Improving situational awareness on campus

Academic reputation is a key driver for colleges and universities to attract the best students, but campus safety is becoming an increasingly important factor in the college-choice equation. Topping the list of safety concerns is the threat of gun violence at schools, which struck on a nearly weekly basis in the past year in the United States. Of the 45 school shootings that took place up to Nov. 19, 2019, 14 occurred on higher education campuses, according to a CNN report.

The active-shooter-on-campus threat is real, and it’s the primary threat that keeps campus safety leaders up at night thinking of new ways to detect, deter and react to such incidents. Other top campus crime concerns include burglaries, forcible sex offenses, vehicle theft, assault and robberies.

While the number of on-campus crimes between 2001 and 2016 decreased by 32 percent, proactive safety officials should be aware of new solutions that can help them anticipate crisis events and mitigate potential threats to students, staff and property.

The particular solution discussed in this article is the Situational Awareness Program that consists of incident and case management and situational awareness platforms that leverage big data and artificial intelligence and pair them with human analysis. But before I show you what a Situational Awareness Program consists of and how it works, let me place this into the context of how big data and artificial intelligence are affecting the security industry.

Big Data and Artificial Intelligence on Campus

Campus safety leaders should be aware of a growing evolutionary force in the security industry called Security 4.0. It’s similar to when the manufacturing industry first heard the term Industry 4.0 or the 4th Industrial Revolution.

In short, it’s related to modern smart factories where processes are increasingly automated, systems and facilities analyze themselves, and connected AI monitoring programs communicate with each other and their human coworkers. The end result is faster, smoother processes that free human participants for tasks that require a human touch.

The security industry is on a similar path with Security 4.0. While most security programs remain highly manual and almost entirely human-based, security programs are becoming increasingly connected to automation. Artificial intelligence, analytics and machine learning are changing the way we run our programs in ways that seemed impossible just a few years ago.

One way campus security leaders can embrace Security 4.0 is by deploying a Situational Awareness Program that connects incident and case management data with real-time critical event intelligence technologies that are driven by big data and artificial intelligence. Pairing these technologies with human data and intelligence analysts can increase safety and mitigate risk.

Here are the three essentials for creating a campus Situational Awareness Program.

Incident and Case Management Software

Campus security programs should deploy incident and case management software and collect data on all on-campus incidents as well as off-campus incidents that directly impact their institution.

A good incident and case management platform enables users to automate, document, investigate and analyze incidents. The best platforms are user-friendly and highly configurable with instant notifications, time stamping and geo-location functionality to provide leaders with a clear picture of what is happening on their campus and where those incidents take place.

The ultimate goal of the platform is to help campus security leaders identify gaps and become more effective at mitigating potential risks. As security teams collect information in the platform over time, they can begin to identify trends and direct their staff to respond accordingly.

Let’s take burglaries, which make up the majority of on-campus crimes, as an example. As these crimes are logged into the incident and case management platform, security teams can identify trends, locations and times that would enable security officials to respond in ways to mitigate future incidents.

Situational Awareness Platform

In addition to collecting data with incident and case management software, security leaders can improve their security and mitigate risk by tapping into big data with a situational awareness platform.

Long gone are the days of relying on spotty search engine results and sifting through mountains of data in search of meaningful information.

Today’s situational awareness platform tools can mine, aggregate and filter out the noise of news feeds, social posts and open-source information to find specific critical event intelligence that can help security teams better respond and resolve potential risks that may affect campus life.

A good example of this is a large campus event that draws crowds. While most large-scale events are peaceful, there are occasional unforeseen circumstances that could impact event attendees and the overall security of the area.

Consequently, while campus security has an extremely difficult task of pre-event planning and managing crowd control to ensure the event attendees remain safe, they can also incorporate critical event intelligence tools that could geo-fence the concert area within a specific radius and then aggregate data from open sources, especially social media and other online platforms, to understand public sentiment around the event.

This gives campus security the capability to understand the evolving risk landscape and also receive specific intelligence — car accidents, blocked roads, violence, planned protests — which gives significant lead time to respond to and mitigate threats.

In-House Data and Intelligence Analyst

Once the incident and case management and situational awareness platforms are established, campus security leaders should hire inhouse data and intelligence analysts who can combine and analyze both on-campus and off-campus data to identify trends or potential security gaps.

To overcome budget challenges, campus security leaders could use this opportunity to hire an intelligence/data analyst and supplement that position with students pursuing a degree in related fields, such as criminal justice, national security, data analytics and security intelligence. This opportunity could be offered either through a federal work study position or internship for students seeking to develop more knowledge and skills in this field.

This type of engagement not only increases the level of communication between students and campus security, but also reinforces the university perception of campus security/police in a positive light by allowing students to have a vested interest in the overall safety of the campus. At the same time, they are honing skills that could expand their horizons when it comes to career options.

While these technology toolsets can provide a big boost in making the job of campus security more seamless, they are not without their limitations, especially when it comes to analyzing data in order to detect where resources should be allocated or which aspects of the security program need more attention.

The toolsets by themselves cannot interpret results, forecast trends or tell decisionmakers where they should focus. Analysts can review disparate pieces of data and augment that data with actionable threat and impact analysis reporting to equip campus decisionmakers with enough information to develop new protocols and help mitigate existing and future risks.

Notably, analysts can identify security and intelligence gaps on campus. These gaps are pivotal because they can serve as the impetus for security leaders to work with university stakeholders to learn how to address those issues.

Additionally, rather than campus security focusing their efforts on interpreting collected situational intelligence, they could become more efficient by relying on analysis by the intelligence/data team for guidance on how to make effective decisions.

Campus security leaders have the extremely difficult task of leveraging existing and prospective resource capabilities to ensure that students, faculty and staff are safe. This is made more difficult when they do not have the right tools available to them, or are operating within a structure that is not designed for the threat landscape of today.

In a new era of sporadic and unpredictable active shooter incidents and workplace violence incidents across the country, security executives have a dual role in keeping their campuses safe but also continuously seek out new technologies that are increasingly built with robust artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to help them stay ahead of the curve.

It is obvious there are no fool-proof technology toolsets or security programs that could completely prevent critical events from occurring on campus, particularly when it seems that new threats and platforms for planning violence continue to expand.

However, if effectively paired with analysts and the right tools, Situational Awareness Programs can help university and college campuses optimize the way they mitigate threats, both now and in the future.

This article originally appeared in the January / February 2020 issue of Campus Security Today.


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