AURORA | The Community College of Aurora is in the final stages of completing security upgrades to its CentreTech campus, which will include increased external cameras and lighting along with code blue stations.
“It’s been really exciting to go through this whole process,” said Travis Hogan, director of campus safety and security.
When he first started working at CCA about five years ago Hogan said there were almost no external cameras on campus, which made it difficult to determine how much foot traffic the campus got overnight and left it more vulnerable to theft and vandalism.
The college submitted a controlled maintenance request to the state for upgrades, but shortly afterward the COVID-19 pandemic started, throwing higher education and government into emergency mode. Hogan figured the college had missed its chance, but to his surprise the request was approved for $1.3 million. The college’s cabinet also contributed some money to the project, for a total of $1.5 million.
With that money, the college began installing many more interior and exterior cameras on campus, going from about 65 to 220. It also replaced all the lighting in its parking lots and pathways in order for there to be enough light for the cameras to function properly, said Hogan, who noted that light has also shown to be one of the biggest deterrents of crime.
In addition to lighting the college also installed five emergency code blue stations throughout its campus, which have a button that people can press to be immediately connected to a 911 operator.
The upgrades took place only at CCA’s CentreTech campus, as the buildings on its Lowry campus are rented from the Colorado Community College System, which is directly in charge of security at that location. The CCCS did a similar upgrade that was smaller in scope recently, Hogan said.
He said that the caliber of upgrades have earned praise from people who work in the state’s government and some at Aurora’s Raytheon location, which is just across the street from CCA.
“It’s really exciting to have a system like this at such a small institution, but it just goes to show how much CCA takes pride in the safety of our students and staff,” Hogan said.
Upgrades began in August 2021 and were mostly finished in April and May, with a few IT upgrades still ongoing. As part of the project the college increased the amount of server storage space it has to accommodate footage from the additional security cameras as well as to prepare in advance for the new STEM building that the college will break ground on later this month.
During the pandemic there was some theft on campus, including a stolen vehicle, but Hogan said that since installing the cameras and lights it has not had any major incidents take place. The cameras allow the security team to have eyes on the building at night, since unlike a residential campus people are not present 24/7.
The college has a good working relationship with local law enforcement, Hogan said, and if they see something out of the ordinary in the footage they can have someone come over to take a look at it.
Despite their close relationship, the campus security team isn’t law enforcement.
“One of my phrases I always say is ‘we’re a resource, not a police force,’” Hogan said.
Another change that’s taken place over the past year is a shift in the security team’s uniform. When Hogan took the reins as security director, the six-person team wore uniforms similar to what police wore and carried batons and pepper spray.
CCA prides itself on having one of the most diverse student bodies in Colorado, with students from 65 different countries who have “a lot of different lived experiences with law enforcement,” Hogan said. He noticed some discomfort from students who mistook the team for police and decided to “take down the tone” a little bit.
After receiving approval from the college’s leadership team, Hogan switched the uniform to jeans with polo shirts that say “campus security” on them.
“Since then, folks know when they see us that we’re CCA security,” Hogan said. “We’re there to help them, we’re there to assist them. If they’ve done something wrong, we’re not going to arrest them.”
If there is an issue that rises to the criminal level, they can get in touch with their law enforcement partners quickly, Hogan said. But even when students do break the code of conduct, “it’s not a real adversarial system.”
“We want that restorative justice,” he said. We not only want the person to be accountable for what they did but to restore that space to the way it was before so the student is not negatively impacted.”