The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is ranked in the Top 10 among the 2019 Safest Colleges in America, according to a list released this month by the National Council for Home Safety and Security (NCHSS).
The organization compiled the list using data from law enforcement and FBI crime reports. It looked at 490 colleges, excluding those with fewer than 1,000 students and those that did not submit crime reports to the FBI. Two variables were considered, the crime rates and the police adequacy for the size of the campus.
UTHSC ranked at Number 9. It joins other Tennessee institutions – Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Jackson State Community College in Jackson, and Roane State Community College in Harriman – in the Top 10 on the list.
The UTHSC campus, under the direction of Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operations Officer Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, is in the midst of more than $30 million in security improvements. These include state-of-the-art video security technology, wireless and keyless access for all buildings, and a new Emergency Operations Center in the lower level of the General Education Building at 8 South Dunlap to monitor security on campus and in the Memphis Medical District.
A total of more than 3,500 cameras, 500 access-controlled doors, and 3,000 wireless door locks will be installed in three phases. Currently, 2,000 cameras and 400 access and controlled locks have been installed. Keyless entry to buildings will allow exterior doors to have automatic lockdown capabilities in the event of an active threat.
UTHSC is working with the Memphis Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center to have access to video in the university’s buildings, on campus, and within the Medical District, where the university’s cameras are located.
Campus Police Chief Anthony Berryhill has overseen expansion of the police force and improvements in equipment, training, and operations.
“Just a few of the training improvements would be continuous educating of the colleges on proper responses to a crisis, and our work with the FBI training division on presenting active shooter drills for the campus community,” the chief said. “In terms of operations, we are increasing our staffing levels to offer a larger police presence on campus 24 hours a day.
New patrol vehicles have been added and the existing fleet has seen improvements, including updated branding on the exteriors, so they are easily identifiable as UTHSC Campus Police patrol cars. Three new vehicles have been equipped with secured patrol rifles to address any active threat.
Pedestrian safety has been addressed. Crosswalk lights and traffic signs have been installed. Campus Police officers are deployed during rush hour to ensure pedestrian safety, and officers use handheld radar guns to slow traffic around campus.
“My goal is to make certain that everyone sees the police presence and feels safe in this campus environment,” Chief Berryhill said.
The National Council for Home Safety and Security is a trade organization of licensed alarm installers, contractors, and other safety and security trade groups across the country. It focuses on legislative initiatives regarding its membership and safety and security issues for consumers.
This is the third year that the organization has compiled its safest colleges ranking. Campuses on the list range from private institutions, such as Elon University in North Carolina, to large public universities, including Louisiana State University and the University of Texas.
“The NCHSS compiles this list to celebrate the universities that excel in keeping their grounds safe, and to create the national awareness for scholastic safety that it deserves,” said Robyn Avery, a spokesperson for Alarms.org, the official site of the National Council for Home Safety and Security.