UCCS community evaluates campus security and safety communication

After the double homicide of 24-year-old UCCS senior Samuel Knopp and 26-year-old Celie Rain Montgomery on Feb. 16, community members have been concerned about the security on campus. 

Questions about the ongoing investigation, campus surveillance, secure access, communication with campus during an emergency situation and what security measures are taken by the UCCS Police Department have risen during this time and led to a petition with more than 600 signatures advocating for better security at UCCS. 

Petition for better security 

According to FOX21, the author of the Bring Security To UCCS petition is Allison Pierce, a freshman at UCCS, who addressed the petition to Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet. Pierce started the petition on Feb. 22 and has collected 649 signatures as of March 6. 

In the petition, she criticized the campus’ lack of security, noting the university has poor surveillance outside of Alpine Village and Summit housing.  

“You are responsible for the 11,000 students who enroll and pay tuition at UCCS, plus demand all first-year students live on campus, yet our safety isn’t worth the extra bill,” she wrote in the petition. 

The petition advocates for cameras outside of student living areas, broken doors being fixed in a timely manner, working surveillance in all parking locations and secure classroom buildings. 

“This time, we lost two souls, but how long will it be until you are sending mass emails to parents and the community that dozens of your students are dead?” Pierce wrote in the email. 

Some students who have signed the petition have commented on it advocating for change, noting that they don’t feel safe on campus and emphasizing the need to prevent tragedies like this going forward. 

“I want to feel safe in my community. I have to walk from The Lookout to my classes everyday. I have not felt safe. When I was forced to live in the dorms as a transfer “first year” (I’m a senior) I felt the most unsafe,” a commenter wrote. 

Campus Security Measures 

Chief of Police Dewayne McCarver provided details about security measures that are taken to safeguard campus and protect the community. 

In response to the petition, McCarver noted in a follow-up email that there are camera in Alpine Village. In the arrest affidavit released by the El Paso County Court on Feb. 23, it states that the only cameras for the campus are located in the parking garage area southwest of the dormitory complex. 

“There were a lot of security measures being implemented already, we’re in the midst of those, so I want our campus to know that it’s not reactionary, we were already doing this and because we always want to be looking for ways to improve.” he said. 

UCCS police have been undergoing a large project since last fall to implement more cameras around campus, which McCarver said is halfway complete and is estimated to be done by the end of May.   

The project will install 67 real-time surveillance cameras in total around  the outdoor common areas, including in and around residence halls. McCarver stated there are cameras in specific buildings already. The project is funded by one-times funds from the university’s budget.  

A dispatcher monitors these cameras and relays details about what is occurring to officers as they are en route to effectively handle situations and take necessary precautions. 

Chris Valentine, assistant vice chancellor of marketing and communication, said in an email cameras serve a number of purposes. The first is to provide evidence after an event, the second is to serve as a deterrent and the third is for dispatchers to have real-time information as they receive a call. 

Valentine noted that no one is monitoring the dozens of cameras on campus in real time because the unversity does not have the resources to. 

All resident halls and various campus facilities can only be accessed with a valid Lion OneCard, and entryways that restrict access in the remaining non-resident buildings without keycard-only access are being installed.  

“What I think is important for a campus community in order to have a safe community, I think you have to have a great relationship with the police department. Because a big part of being safe is for people to feel comfortable to come to you with concerns.” McCarver said. 

McCarver encourages students with concerns about safety to reach out to the Community Advisory Council, a group of students, faculty and staff that is meant to work with UCCS police to better serve the community.  

UCCS police are available at 719-255-3111 and can be contacted through the UCCS SAFE app in the event of an emergency. 

UCCSAlert registration for students and staff, emergency alert updates and additional details can be found on the UCCS Alerts and Emergency Preparedness Information Website.