When you think of college campus security, personal safety probably comes to mind first. But what about money?
A lot of cash exchanges hands every day at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It comes from all over Hawaii’s largest campus to the main cashier before heading to the bank.
Most of the money runs on campus are being done by unarmed campus security, rarely by the armored cars most other big universities use.
“Give them guns, because now, especially, if (KHON2 is) going to tell people,” said freshman Carlos Guzman. “They’re not armed. That’s going to rise already.”
We thought of that too. How do we tell the important story about protecting your money and the people who deliver it without making the risk worse? So we’re not going to say when or exactly where all this takes place.
But it’s not exactly a secret. Many already know this longtime practice is going on, and it’s even listed in the security officer job description.
“It has been a known responsibility of the staff,” said Randy Perreira, executive director of the state’s largest public worker union, HGEA, which represents campus security officers. “Obviously precautions are taken, but it is a cause for concern because first and foremost, we want to make sure that the students are safe, but at the same time we want to make sure the employees we represent are safe too. We don’t want to see them in harm’s way.”
Yet day in and day out, security officers are out there with money bags.
“This is a huge risk they’re taking,” said freshman Mark De Vera. “They’re carrying a lot. First of all, I didn’t even know that they weren’t secure when they were delivering the money.”
It’s no small change. Officers can carry thousands on an average day — sources say even six figures on busy days like the start of a semester.
“They’re handling a lot of money,” Guzman said, “and we’re all broke. That’s important money.”
“Our money is going toward books and supplies and things that we need,” said freshman Ariel Ashe-Ramirez, “and there’s a high risk of things getting stolen especially on a college campus.”
“They should be paying more attention and being more careful,” said sophomore Britny Ching. “Our campus is a very open campus. It’s in the middle of town.”
While campus security surely does everything within its power to protect people and property, those powers are limited. It is not a police force.
“I definitely think that will bring up some concerns with students, because they are not an armored van or vehicle, and just because security is not police, they’re not equipped with guns,” said Richard Mizusawa, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii (ASUH).
Evolving into campus police is something being looked at, “but it’s not so simple to say we’re going to start passing out handguns tomorrow and say that everyone on campus is safer. Far from it,” Perreira said. “There would have to be training and certification for any individual involved, so I think it’s a goal or policy direction the university wants to take, but it’s not something unfortunately that the university can flip a switch on today and say we’re all set for tomorrow.”
“Determining the best model and approach to provisioning for a safe and secure community is a deliberate and progressive process that will continue to involve a broad spectrum of campus stakeholders,” Charles Noffsinger, chief of UH Campus Security said in a statement. “Incorporating a law enforcement function into the department, consistent with the practices of most universities across the country, is a model that continues to be researched, discussed and evaluated.”
Meanwhile, the university does have a contract for armored car service between the main cashier and the bank. There’s an option already in the contract for special on-call on-campus pickups during rush periods, but sources couldn’t recall the last time that was actually used.
“I certainly hope that the university is going to be taking a very serious look at this right away and try to address and mitigate as soon as possible,” Perreira said. “It’s been a topic of conversation from time to time. The reality is the world has changed. I think the job descriptions, as is the case with so many state employees, are very likely old and perhaps to some degree outdated. So the expectation to have these individuals perform that service, it might be something that the university should take a more serious look at sooner rather than later.”
So what’s the fix?
“I did not know about this but now that I’ve heard about it, we’ll move forward and improve ourselves,” said UH-Manoa chancellor Tom Apple said. “That’s the whole idea, to get better at what we do, so thank you.”
Moving more quickly toward the campus police concept and more armored service assignments are now on the table.
“Both of them sound like viable options and we’ll have to look at both of them,” Apple said. “There’s the possibility we could do some better contracting to make sure that when large amounts of cash are being moved around it’s secure, and that we know that we have armed folks doing that.”