GU tightened campus security in wake of VA Tech massacre

Two people were left dead in the wake of Thursday’s shooting at Virginia Tech, but since the deadly massacre at that school back in 2007, universities across the United States, including here in the Inland Northwest, having been bolstering their security systems to prevent an active shooter situation from happening again.

The motive is still unclear as to the deadly shootings at Virginia Tech Thursday. A gunman killed a campus police officer in a school parking lot, and was later found dead in another lot. Before it became clear that the gunman in attack was dead, the school locked down the campus and used a high-tech alert system to warn students and faculty members to stay indoors.

That warning system is in place because of the campus shooting rampage that killed 33 people four years ago. Since then, college campuses have been beefing up their security and changing the way they inform students.

Gonzaga University Director of Campus Security John Van Sant says the school now has a massive surveillance system.

“We have the ability to come in here and be able to look into an area safely, before they put anybody into those areas,” Van Sant said as he stood in a room filled with surveillance monitors.

Van Sant says almost 400 cameras have been placed around the campus so officers can see if someone’s bike is stolen, or if there’s an assault, because the cameras cover most of the university. Officers can also view incidents as they’re happening and dispatch other law enforcement if needed. E-mail and text message alerts now keep students informed of crimes committed on campus. If a suspect is at-large, security can let them know in a matter of seconds.

“They e-mail us right away if something happens, they always put out an alert,” GU student Natalie Kearns said.

Kearns works at the law library, which is in a secluded area of Gonzaga, and says campus security has a strong presence in case something bad happens.

“And I do feel safe because even just walking around, we always see them drive by, and it’s comforting to know that they’re there,” Kearns said.

The thought of all those cameras makes other students feel safe too.

“If I think about it sure, but I don’t usually think about it I just feel Gonzaga is a pretty safe campus in general,” GU student Napoleone Piani said.

As for Van Sant, he says the changes lead to a more secure campus and faster response times for every incident, big or small.

“I’d rather deal with campus shenanigans any day over the real serious events, but we’ll be ready for them,” he said.

Van Sant also says Virginia Tech is a model of what campus security systems should look like. He says it’s because of that tragic event four years ago that instant text messages sent to student’s phones are the norm.