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Stopping the buck on Securitas’ shortcomings

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • October 18, 2012

Until recent developments, it appeared that last week’s Little Building intruder incident might have been a fluke.

After all, a stranger darting unnoticed past a security desk or slipping by with a large group were conceivable (but worrying) hypotheses to explain how the unidentified man entered an Emerson dorm last Wednesday morning. But news that the intruder smooth-talked his way onto the premises, purporting to be an employee of the college, is cause for genuine alarm.

Securitas officers may be helpless to deter intruders scaling the Little Building with suction cups and circular glass cutters, but they are employed to prevent more imaginable scenarios. They bought the suspect’s lie and waved him into the elevator as students awoke for their 8 a.m. classes.

Firing the culpable guards eliminates two weak links in the chain of responsibility, but the college must reassess its contract with a third party security firm whose performance has permitted this breach and numerous student complaints — enough to cause Emerson College Police Department Chief Robert Smith concern.

The college must pressure Securitas to fortify its training and security measures. The physical safety of people and belongings — especially at an urban campus — is not something Emerson can afford to phone in. The administration is responsible for demanding world-class standards from the external company that protects Emerson’s doors.

If Securitas hopes to retain its contract with our college, it must respond by living up to its own standards. “A Securitas employee is always attentive and often notices things that others don’t,” boasts the company’s website under its code of values. There is no question that its sentries at this institution have fallen short.

Furthermore, Little Building residents were never given full details of the arrest. According to Smith, the decision to keep the matter within the realm of ECPD was his choice. Students learned about the intrusion through the campus grapevine because of his failure to formally respond.

“I wasn’t trying to not notify the community,” Smith told the Beacon. Regretfully, not trying—to not notify—the community is the lowest common denominator of both service and rhetorical spin. In the end, the hero of this story is a resident assistant who identified the intruder. To alter a line that’s dominated presidential politics this week, the buck must stop somewhere else.

For a small school with limited space and rising costs, we expect our tuition dollars to deliver us world-class educations and, at the very least, peace of mind in our own beds. Where bureaucracies fail, individuals must remain watchful—so please, lock your doors.