How the University of Iowa Transformed Campus Safety with a Flock Safety Falcon™ LPR Perimeter
September 15, 2023
Set in Iowa City, the University of Iowa is intertwined with the surrounding urban community. Spanning more than 1,900 acres, it’s often difficult to discern where its campus begins and ends. With such a large, ungated area, and more than 31,000 students, the University’s Campus Safety team has a challenging task when it comes to keeping students and faculty safe.
Mark Bullock, the University of Iowa’s Assistant Vice President of Campus Safety, was searching for new security measures that would allow him and his team to more efficiently protect the vast campus. With the university’s urban setting, there was an increasing concern around a rise in violent crime happening adjacent to campus. Despite having a robust video camera system and dispatch center, he felt that his team would greatly benefit from a solution that enabled them to more effectively respond to incidents in real-time, versus having to sift through video footage.
License Plate Recognition (LPR) technology was considered by Iowa’s Campus Safety team for some time. Bullock stated, “We started talking to other peers in the Big 10 and everyone was talking about Flock.” The recommendations from peers ultimately swayed Bullock to explore bringing Flock Safety to the University of Iowa. His goal was to better connect two sections of campus that are separated by a river with a virtual LPR perimeter. As such, he ultimately decided to deploy 28 Flock Safety Falcon™ LPR cameras to ensure he and his team were able to capture every vehicle coming in and out of campus.
Flock Safety’s Falcon™ LPR cameras proved quick time to value in enhancing safety, facilitating collaboration with other agencies, improving investigations, and contributing to more efficient operations.
More rapid response to student welfare issues:
With Flock Safety’s real-time data and alerts, the Campus Safety team has been able to proactively address potential threats, incidents and issues. The campus hospital is one of their dispatch center’s biggest areas for calls of service, with many of the calls regarding student mental health issues.
In one instance, the dispatch center received a call regarding a person driving to the hospital, armed, who was expressing dangerous tendencies. The Campus Safety team was able to use Flock Safety to swiftly identify and locate the person’’s vehicle, prevent any dangerous behavior, and ensure the person received appropriate medical care. Bullock remarked, “One thing that’s been nice about Flock Safety is that it does some of the work for us. Our response and our efforts can be a little bit more precise, effective and efficient.”
Better collaboration with police departments and other universities:
Flock Safety has helped the University of Iowa unlock a broader security network beyond campus boundaries. The ability to share camera feeds and information across agencies has helped locate suspects and solve cases in various regions.
One example of this was when a vehicle burglary occurred on campus and Iowa’s Campus Safety team used Flock Safety to find the suspect’s vehicle. Though the suspect had been found in Altoona, Iowa – more than 100 miles from campus – they were able to work with the local police department to apprehend the person. Travis Tyrrell, Lieutenant of Investigations and Professional Standards shared, “We’ve built some pretty incredible relationships just based on how valuable our investigations team can be to surrounding agencies, and even at the state level.”
Bullock also added: “Something that gives me peace of mind is knowing that because we’ve got this network of Flock Safety cameras in all these college towns, we know if an issue we have is connected to something in Bloomington, IN or Champagne, IL or Columbus, OH. That, I think, is really valuable.”
Overcoming privacy concerns:
WhenIowa’s Campus Safety team installed Flock Safety’s Falcon™ LPR cameras, there were initial concerns around potentially compromising student and faculty privacy. However, Bullock stated this was a “very short lived concern.” Once he started using Flock Safety, he felt the system had many built in safeguards around privacy, including a clear 30 day data retention policy, along with ensuring data would never be sold or shared. Bullock added, “The system doesn’t care who’s driving the car. They just care about the car and the license plate… it seemed that the system itself had a lot of protections in place.”
The University of Iowa’s Campus Safety team has found Flock Safety to be a worthwhile investment for not only enhancing campus safety, but also protecting the broader Iowa City community. Bullock remarked, “It’s nice to have something that can be both a resource to the campus, but also be a resource to our local law enforcement community in trying to address these emerging issues with crime that seems to be getting closer to campus over time.” He ultimately finds Flock Safety’s real-time data and vast network to be invaluable, noting, “I absolutely think we’re safer than before we had it, because we know more.”