By Leon Harris, Principal Consultant, Harris Crime Prevention Services
Traditionally, schools are considered a sanctuary from external criminal activity. Unfortunately, negative aspects of societal changes have resulted in schools, like many other institutions and community organisations, being targeted by criminals.
A safe school (and working) environment goes hand in hand with the philosophies and goals relating to academic performance and personal development, which are central to every school’s existence. Security and perceptions of personal safety are also critical to any school wishing to maintain a good public profile and needing positive relationships with stakeholders. Increasingly schools are seeking external expertise to improve the safety and security of students, staff and assets. The physical protection of people, private information and property are serious areas of duty of care obligation for school boards and teachers. Some consider it an issue of guardianship.
Schools should use modern security technologies involving system networking and integration and ‘best’ security practices to ensure security (and safety) compliance, ‘business’ continuity and cost containment. Schools must develop a security approach that does not negatively impact on their desired learning and social cultures.
Unfortunately the advice provided by many security companies is often detrimental to the goals of schools. Key features of good security in schools are stakeholder acceptance and a willing ‘ownership’ by students and staff. This usually requires a shift in thinking within the schools themselves.
For schools and buildings on the drawing boards, management expect that their architects will provide modern and sensible functional and aesthetic design. However, this is not enough as schools will need to include in their architectural brief the objective to identify opportunities to ‘design out crime’. This may be a demanding requirement on some architects. Architects should seek specialist advice to complement their expertise to ensure all the security (architectural) design benefits are gained.
As previously mentioned, schools have a duty of care under both common law and work health and safety legislation to provide for the safety of students, staff and visitors. There is a strong relationship between safety and security.
© Harris Crime Prevention Services. 2012
Harris Crime Prevention Services provides on an occasional basis articles by other Industry experts, such as: How Airports apply designing out crime principles