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Security guards to start today

Students can expect to see the first installments of unarmed security officers roaming around high-traffic areas on campus today.

Two security guards employed by AlliedBarton Security Services will coordinate with campus police to patrol residence halls and the health sciences area around the clock, beginning at 7 a.m.

USF officials said students can expect more security officers and increased patrols once the University works out the details of their agreement with AlliedBarton, a private security firm which provides unarmed security guards to 90 universities.

“What’s starting tomorrow is in no way how it’s going to be run,” University Police spokeswoman Meg Ross said.

The arrival of the security guards comes on the cusp of this weekend’s Homecoming festivities, where increased demands for security at events cut into the campus patrols of the UP officers.

Members of UP said 19 officers have been drafted to work 17- and 18-hour days for Homecoming.

University higher-ups likely thought it would be a good idea to have the officers here with Homecoming this weekend, Ross said.

“We’re most definitely stretched thin, but there’s good and bad points to them starting this weekend,” she said. “I hope they’ll be helpful, but they don’t know the campus, and they haven’t used the keys or the golf carts before. The time we have to spend giving them orientation may take away from other things.”

UP will supply the security guards with key cards to campus buildings, as well as any maps or documents they need, Ross said.

The guards will carry radios and work with University Police, but dispatchers for campus police – already overworked with their duties monitoring UP’s patrols – will not monitor the radios carried by the security officers.

If the guards need police assistance, they will contact the shift supervisor, Ross said, adding that UP dispatchers would have one of the radios used by security officers should they need to be contacted.

Hiring AlliedBarton to supply security guards was one of two new security initiatives trumpeted by University officials during a press conference one week ago.

“The security officers will handle routine security chores that have traditionally taken the police department’s focus off of the type of law enforcement duties that armed, sworn officers are needed to do,” USF spokesman Ken Gullette said. “At some point in the near future, we expect to have a fully staffed police force earning higher salaries, and also an effective system of security officers to help in residence halls (and) some campus events and to establish foot patrols on campus.”

Officials also announced that UP would be removed from the Student Affairs Department and rolled into a new Public Safety Division with parking enforcement and emergency management.

Both announcements came on the heels of a sit-in led by student body President Garin Flowers and Vice President Faran Abbasi on Oct. 16, and amid increasing scrutiny from media reports critical of University leadership for their handling of safety concerns on campus.

USF has a lower officer-to-student ratio than any other major four-year school in the state – one officer for every 940 students.

By comparison, UCF has one officer for every 730 students.

The University’s announcements also came while UP officers are negotiating with administrators over their new salary contract. The salary talks have dragged on since February.

Longo has said the low pay of UP officers compared to competing law enforcement agencies makes retention and recruitment of officers difficult, leading to high turnover and a “revolving door” within University Police.

The starting annual pay for USF officers is now $35,041 – about $4,000 less than at other local agencies.

The University’s decision to hire the security guards for patrols has been met with both support and derision from University Police officers.

UP Chief Thomas Longo

publicly endorsed the hiring of the security officers, citing it as “extra sets of eyes and ears” and a way to shift some of the burden of answering routine calls to unlock doors or provide security escorts from UP officers.

But some officers balked that the University would invest money in security guards rather than boosting the pay of its own police officers.

“The funds that the University is putting into this security force should have been put into their police department,” said Stephanie Crookston, the lead negotiator for the Police Benevolent Association. “Now there will be security officers calling in calls for the four police officers on duty to respond to. I don’t understand why the University won’t put the funds into correcting the issues within their police department.”

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Carl Carlucci said the contract with AlliedBarton would be good for one year and cost somewhere around $200,000.

He and President Judy Genshaft stressed that the funds used to pay the security officers were pooled from leftover money in University departments at the end of the fiscal year and could not be used for the salaries of UP officers, who are paid with recurring funds.