Biometrics boost campus safety

November 11, 2005

While London universities plough cash into high-tech protection in the wake of the July attacks, there are fears the terror Bill will criminalise staff and students

Surveillance has become more sophisticated at London universities since 7/7, but there is no room for complacency, according to a security consultant.

Simon Whitehouse has advised Queen Mary, University of London, on its security procedures, writes Jessica Shepherd.

He is encouraged by the fact that more and more universities are turning to biometric technology, such as fingerprint and iris recognition, as part of their campus surveillance.

Mr Whitehouse has also noticed that larger slices of university budgets are being handed to security services and that there is increased co-operation between campuses, police and local authorities.

But the security expert, who works for consultancy firm SGWassociates, said he was concerned that institutions did not employ sufficiently skilled security staff to cater for their needs.

He said: "Universities in London pose many, many security hazards.

Computers and vending machines may be targets for criminals. Narcotics, stimulants and potential bomb-making equipment may be in labs.

"Arterial roads run through or near campuses, making it difficult to tell who is a student or member of staff and who is not.

"University services, such as creches, are used by locals. There is a constant stream of delivery vehicles, personnel and students at all times of the day and night.

"Perhaps not everyone is asked for their ID. Perhaps campuses and streets are not sufficiently well lit.

"All these issues need to be dealt with, and universities need to make sure that their security staff are specifically trained to deal with a particular institution's needs.

"It is not enough simply to vet staff, they need to have the right skills for the job.

"However, without a doubt, security managers and emergency planners at universities have become more aware of potential threats in the wake of the London attacks."

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