Area colleges have upgraded security measures

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

In the wake of shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., experts on security are saying acts of violence on college and school campuses can and do occur in communities of all sizes.

Officials at Eastern New Mexico University and Clovis Community College said Monday they take the security of their students seriously. They said since the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, security measures have been pushed to the forefront.

“It’s (violence) an unfortunate fact of life in our time,” said David Caffey, vice president for institutional effectiveness at Clovis Community College.

Caffey said within the last year CCC has added a section to its emergency procedures manual dealing with the threat of “mobile active threat of violence,” which would encompass what students, faculty and staff should do if someone were on campus with a gun or a hostage situation occurred.

“It’s not a problem that schools can ignore,” Caffey said.

Caffey said he knew public schools in the area have also developed similar procedures. He said CCC, which has security staff but no campus police, sought help from Clovis Police in coming up with strategies for various situations.

Sgt. Ron Baker of the seven-member ENMU Campus Police department said while emergency procedures dealing with a variety of situations have been in place at the school for a long time, the department is in the process of updating those procedures as are most other entities in Roosevelt County.

“We rely on students, faculty and staff to let us know if a student or individual is acting strangely or presents a threat,” Baker said.

Baker said ENMU’s policy doesn’t allow firearms on campus, except for police officers, and campus police actively enforce the rule. He said students can leave their firearms in the gun vault at the campus police station.

ENMU and CCC officials said there is no public address system available to alert students and faculty to a problem on campus. ENMU has someone in each building responsible for notifying occupants of an emergency. Caffey said the CCC campus is divided into sectors with someone in each sector assigned to knock on doors in each classroom in case of an emergency or lockdown.

“We try to notify every person we possibly can so we can get the word out and make sure everyone is safe,” Baker said.

Both schools’ student handbooks address how to deal with violence on campus.
Gov. Bill Richardson said Monday he has directed Higher Education Secretary Beverlee McClure to work with New Mexico colleges to ensure adequate safety measures are in place.

Richardson said state officials will examine security personnel on each campus and the level of training they have to determine how to better prepare campus police and security officials to respond to such incidents.

A Safety Task Force will be formed to make recommendations for improving safety for students, faculty and staff on New Mexico campuses.

Caffey was not aware of any violent incidents or threats at CCC.

ENMU evacuated its campus last year because of a bomb threat, and in a separate incident, evacuated the science building while possibly dangerous chemicals were removed following a police investigation of an individual.

Both events were peacefully resolved.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.