Illinois Task Force Recommends $25 Million Campus Security Program
One day before the anniversary of the April 16, 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, a task force commissioned by Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich convened at the University of Illinois-Chicago to present a comprehensive 259-page report detailing the group's recommendations for increasing security at the state's colleges and universities, in part through the creation of a $25 million Campus Security Enhancement Grant Program. The program would make available funding for campus security response and violence prevention training programs, projects to enhance emergency communications and planning, and execution of campus-wide training exercises.
Blagojevich said he fully supports the initiative and that funding for it is included in the Governor's Capital Bill. He added that he also supports the other legislative proposal recommended by the task force in the report, creation of the Campus Security Enhancement Act of 2008, under which all Illinois higher education institutions would be required to develop and exercise an all-hazards emergency response plan and an inter-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional campus violence prevention plan. State and local emergency management officials will assist with the development of these plans, as well as with training and exercises related to the plans, he said. The Act would also require the development and implementation of a campus violence prevention committee and campus threat assessment team. The task force's report provided detailed guidance on how to properly develop such committees and teams.
"When I created this task force in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy, I gave it the very serious mission of developing ways that we can make Illinois campuses safer and more secure for our students," Blagojevich said. "As we mark the two-month anniversary of the Northern Illinois University shootings and the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech incident this week, I commend the Campus Security Task Force for presenting me with a report that provides not only solid recommendations for making campuses safer, but also substantive tools to help campuses move forward in security efforts."
While the task force's report was released this week, the group last fall implemented other portions of the governor's campus safety initiatives, including the distribution and training for the use of more than 300 STARCOM21 radios to 70 college campuses throughout Illinois to enhance communications with local response agencies during emergencies. In addition, 200 officials from nearly 100 campuses participated in six Campus Security Awareness Training Program sessions conducted around the state by the CSTF. Blagojevich asked task force members to continue their efforts for campus security by meeting twice a year to determine how the recommendations are being implemented and determine if additional measures are needed. The CSTF’s report outlines more than a dozen additional actions task force members could address in the coming months.
Task force members represent a broad spectrum of more than 75 agencies and organizations from the emergency response, mental health services, legal, and higher education communities.