SU must bolster security efforts in light of shootings at Virginia Tech


SU must bolster security efforts in light of shootings at Virginia Tech


By: Kris Miller
Posted: 4/19/07
How do you think Syracuse University would respond to a shooting like the one at Virginia Tech? What could we do differently to make ourselves safer? These questions must be addressed immediately.

The university is working diligently to strengthen campus security. Nevertheless, students must sustain pressure on Chancellor Nancy Cantor until emergency response systems are more robust and better integrated.

To that end, technology is critical, especially when fewer than 20 public safety officers are on patrol at any time. These officers are responsible for the safety of more than 19,000 students.

The chancellor wants SU's endowment to reach $2 billion. Awesome. But I say a significant portion of SU's budget should fund technologies including closed circuit cameras (CCTV) and mass-alert communications systems.

As a law student senator, I was concerned when I learned last fall that CCTV systems were not prevalent on campus. Public Safety was also concerned, and to its credit, a vigorous effort is under way to overhaul security technologies on campus.

Tony Callisto, the Interim Director of Public Safety, informed me that SU recently hired Mike Kearns to be Manager of Technology and Security Services, which is a new position. Mr. Kearns is a 12-year veteran of the Oswego police force and holds a masters degree in information technology.

The chancellor also formed a CCTV committee, which recently examined IT security practices at similarly situated universities. The committee identified 14 priorities for upgrading security technology on campus, but details have not been released yet.

SU's challenge is to fully integrate existing CCTV systems. Concurrently, SU is working to expand its network and ensure that all systems are managed from its central monitoring station. The ultimate goal is to share this data with other emergency services like the Syracuse Police Department.

This raises another key issue: interoperability. Anyone who has participated in a mass-casualty exercise confesses that interagency communication is a challenge, and it always needs improvement. Public Safety, SUNY ESF, SUNY Medical Center, VA Security and the Syracuse Police Department share a joint communications frequency called "Hill Net." Callisto said Public Safety intends to add three more joint communications channels to improve cooperation.

Would any of this matter? In Monday's tragedy, thermal and infrared CCTV systems (which are not expensive) could have identified the shooter and his actions. He entered the dorm at a low-traffic hour. When he departed, the heat signature from his pistol might have disclosed his M.O. With this information, emergency responders could have reacted more quickly and tracked him, preventing the massacre three hours later.

On 9/11 I became the force protection/anti-terrorism officer for one of Southern Germany's largest and least-secured military housing areas. Initially, I had 12 soldiers per shift to protect thousands of residents and a large infrastructure. We used CCTV, including thermal and infra-red imaging, to identify threats. This technology was extremely valuable.

Could a shooting happen here? This campus abuts one of Syracuse's most economically depressed and dangerous neighborhoods. Students face multiple armed robberies and assaults each month. Even our own students appear capable of violence. Brian Shaw was sentenced to 21 years for manslaughter, and Timothy Ginocchetti is charged with second-degree murder.

The chancellor deserves credit for initiating campus security upgrades. It is our duty as students to make sure she follows through.

Kris Miller is a contributing columnist whose columns appear biweekly in The Daily Orange. E-mail him at


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Kris Miller, “SU must bolster security efforts in light of shootings at Virginia Tech,” The April 16 Archive, accessed March 3, 2024,