Hopkins hires firm to assess its security

Homewood campus audit had started before killing

April 27, 2004|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

The Johns Hopkins University has hired a national consulting firm to assess security measures at its Homewood campus, school officials announced yesterday.

Discussions with iXP Corporation, of Princeton, N.J., were under way before the killing of Hopkins junior Christopher Elser, who died April 18 after being stabbed the day before by an intruder at an off-campus apartment building on St. Paul Street, said campus spokesman Dennis O'Shea. No arrest has been made in the killing of Elser, 20, of Camden, S.C.

"This has been in the works for some period of time," O'Shea said of the security consulting contract. "As a matter of fact, at least two company representatives were here about a week before the stabbing."

Hopkins' growing enrollment, faculty and staff, along with the addition of university buildings in nearby neighborhoods, has made improving security measures necessary, O'Shea said.

"We're sort of moving away from just the Homewood campus itself, into Charles Village, into other areas surrounding the campus," he said. "Our [security] director felt that it would be important to get an expert's advice on how best to handle the security issues that arise from this growth."

O'Shea could not say how much Hopkins planned to pay for the security audit.

Included among construction projects at Hopkins are two buildings on the campus' west side, which will house offices, laboratories and a parking garage. During the summer, construction is scheduled to begin at Charles and 33rd streets on a 500-bed residence hall that will also include a dining facility, bookstore and other retail shops, he said.

Next spring, officials expect to break ground on buildings and a parking garage on the southern end of campus, O'Shea said.

"Those are examples of the kind of physical growth that requires us to sort of think in new ways and not just to do more of the same thing," O'Shea said, referring to campus security.

More than 4,000 full-time undergraduate and about 1,500 full-time graduate students attend classes at the Homewood campus in North Baltimore.

Richard E. Dale, iXP chairman and chief executive officer, said that it typically takes four to six months to review security systems at universities and make recommendations.

Among iXP's clients are the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Syracuse University and the New York City police and fire departments.

"We will be looking at the facilities across campus as well as the facilities that house the emergency communications infrastructure, for example the call center that takes in the emergency calls on campus," Dale said.

Officials will also study building access and the use of closed-circuit television, Dale said.

Meanwhile, Hopkins officials and police have been addressing issues raised by Elser's killing. About 75 people, mostly students, attended a town meeting yesterday at Shriver Hall to discuss campus security, O'Shea said. Baltimore police officials Maj. Regis Phelan, commander of the Northern District (which includes the Homewood campus) and Chief of Patrol Carl Gutberlet attended.

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