Balancing safety and an open campus: How Morgan and Bowie State Universities are tightening security | #schoolsaftey

BALTIMORE — Recent shootings at Morgan State University and Bowie State University have left both campuses struggling to maintain a sense of security and decide how open they should be to the communities that surround them.

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren looked at the actions school leaders are taking and sat down with Bowie State’s president Dr. Aminta Breaux for a candid conversation about what should happen next.

“It is a challenge and even moreso now because we don’t want to have our campuses on lockdown 24/7,” Breaux said. “We don’t want our students to feel they’re always under surveillance and having a strong police force, but it is a balance because we need to ensure they also feel safe and secure to come to campus.”

Dr. Breaux has lead Bowie State University for more than six years and was stunned by the shooting on her campus October 7 that injured two 19-year-old victims.

“It’s the most challenging event that I’ve had to cope with, and it’s not easy,” she said, “What I still feel is just heartache when I know that someone has been harmed. My fear is, ‘Oh my god, these students are entrusted to our care.’ I’m a mother, so I can’t help but go there, and I start asking many questions.”

Among them, her concern about easy access to weapons. 

“What is happening in our society with guns,—with 19-year-olds who have access to guns? What is happening there? And I think that is the question to ask not just of our campuses but of society. What can we do to prevent 19-year-olds from having guns and getting shot? That’s happening not just here on our campuses, but it’s happening every day.”

Her sprawling campus has some gates, a police force and armed security. 

She does not want to fully close Bowie to the community and is looking at technology to enhance security.

“We increased our surveillance with our camera system that now can identify license plates. We’re already working with a vendor to bringing in new technology for facial recognition through our cameras,” said.

But she ruled out walling off campus. 

“We have 300 acres here so fencing right now is not something I believe is the first step, but everything is on the table,” Breaux told WJZ. 

Morgan is different, surrounded by several neighborhoods in Northeast Baltimore. 

President David Wilson wants to expand fencing around 90 percent of the school. After some criticism, he wrote in a recent Facebook post, “Calm down! …This is not the kind of ‘wall’ that a few people think it will be.”

Wilson said in a statement last week, “The measures being put into place on the campus will only serve to enhance the safety of the campus, not to separate it from the surrounding community or keep law-abiding community members out. To the contrary, these measures are designed to dissuade or deter bad actors from targeting the campus by way of unfettered access.”

He will ask state and federal leaders for more than $22 million for security upgrades. 

Morgan already has an armed officer stationed outside of Thurgood Marshall Hall where the shooting shattered windows. 

Back at Bowie, Breaux said she has no second thoughts about inviting the Morgan community to celebrate Homecoming on her campus. 

“I still question what the relationship is to that invitation and this incident where two people were shot who had nothing to do with Bowie State University or Morgan State. So, I think that question might be a bit misplaced because the incident itself had no connection to either one of our institutions. This is a larger societal issue,” she said. 

Dr. Breaux said Bowie’s Homecoming next year is likely to look very different with increased surveillance “and perhaps curbing or even cutting back on how many [people] we have at the event. Do we have to have it open as much as we have in the past because times have changed?”

She said this year’s Homecoming concert, which happened without incident, used a SWAT team as a precautionary security measure.

“Do we want to have the SWAT team for every event? Is that feasible?” Dr. Breaux asked.

Here are some of the safety measures now in place at Bowie:

  • The Bowie Electronic Emergency System (BEES) has been updated to now include all current students, faculty and staff using information in the student or employee record. Additionally, the registration will not expire as long as you are at the university.
  • Enhanced surveillance camera system with facial recognition is in place at all campus entry points, building entrances and other high traffic indoor and outdoor locations. Other locations are planned.
  • Nineteen emergency blue light phones are installed throughout the campus to enable immediate connection to campus police.
  • Installation of automatic building locks equipped with card reader access has been completed for academic classroom buildings, the library and Henry Administration. Other buildings are in process.
  • Installation of automatic locks with card reader access has begun to secure classrooms.

The school is also considering the following security enhancements:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) Weapons Detection System
  • Assessment of enhanced perimeter fencing to control access points onto the campus
  • Assessment of ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection system for implementation
  • Assessment of metal detectors in residential housing
  • Upgrade of all campus exterior lighting to LED
  • Additional license plate readers throughout campus
  • Active Shooter Attack Prevention and Preparedness training for faculty, staff and students.

At Morgan, these are the security upgrades in place:

  • The continuation of the barrier fencing around the perimeter of the campus. With each new construction project, the University has added new barriers (natural and fabricated) and fencing en route toward a goal of 90 percent enclosure. The most recent completed barrier fencing can be found around Martin D. Jenkins Hall (BSSC). To-date, 60 percent of the perimeter has been enclosed.
  • Aggressive recruitment to hire 23 new sworn officers to bring the current Morgan State University Police Department (MSUPD) force to more than 60. Working alongside and under the supervision of MSUPD are 16 Morgan State University security officers and nearly 30 contracted security personnel from Allied Security.
  • Deployment of more than 850 surveillance cameras campus-wide providing more than 2,500 views of the campus.
  • Installation of safety screening devices at the entrances of all on campus residential facilities, manned by dedicated security personnel.
  • Upgrading and increasing of campus lighting.
  • Enforcement of clear bag procedures at on campus sporting events. Safety screening devices were already being used at these events.
  • Securing the services of a national safety consulting firm to assess campus security measures and recommend enhancements or adjustments as needed.
  • Increased campus-wide patrols from the Baltimore Police Department and MSUPD.
  • An armed MSU Police presence in front of the Thurgood Marshall Residence Hall 24/7 – near the location where the incident took place.
  • Added more contracted security personnel, many of which have been stationed near the exteriors of all on-campus residence halls during the evening and nighttime hours. There are currently security personnel located within all on-campus residence halls.
  • Enhanced police presence throughout the interior of the campus and around the campus exterior.
  • Staffed security booths with security personnel throughout the campus and around the exteriors of the campus. The University is looking to add more security booths. One security booth has already been placed in the high traffic area in the vicinity of the Thurgood Marshall Dining Hall.

These are the security measures under consideration at Morgan:

  • More enhanced technology to enable campus law enforcement to detect and identify any individual on campus with a weapon.
  • More strategically placing covert safety screening devices in the vicinity of high traffic areas.
  • Completion of the security barriers and fencing to enclose more of the campus and work to eliminate unfettered access.
  • The addition of more guard booths around campus, manned by the addition of more security personnel.
  • Increasing the number of emergency blue lights throughout the campus, in addition to increasing the number security cameras throughout campus to eliminate any potential blind spots.
  • The hiring of more sworn MSUPD officers.

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