The Costs of Crime and the Benefits of Security Technology, Part 1

Here’s an estimate of what your organization might spend on access control and locks, as well as the lives, resources and money you could save as a result of the installation of these technologies.

By Robin Hattersley Gray · March 22, 2016

This article is part one of a two-part cost/benefit analysis of locks and access control. Check out part two here.

One of the biggest challenges facing any school, hospital or college protection professional is demonstrating to other campus stakeholders the value of the various security and public safety technologies they want to adopt. Whether it’s a new or upgraded two-way radio system, emergency notification solution, video surveillance system or other technology, overcoming the perception that security is just a cost center can be daunting.

That’s why Campus Safety magazine is embarking on a new, year-long project to determine the actual costs of the security solutions that campuses frequently deploy, as well as the tangible and intangible benefits that are realized as a result of their adoption or upgrade.

RELATED: Managing Access Control & Video Surveillance System Maintenance

This first installment focuses on access control and locks. In this article, several end users, consultants and manufacturers in healthcare and education discuss the expenses their organizations have incurred, as well as the benefits they’ve experienced as a result of their access control and lock upgrades. These benefits could include the prevention of crime, apprehension of suspects, brand/marketing improvements, insurance rate reduction, improved student/staff recruitment and retention, and force multiplier benefits.

What is the Actual Cost of Campus Crime?
The first challenge when conducting a cost/ benefit analysis of any security solution, be it technical or otherwise, is to determine the actual financial damages that are the result of crime. Of course, there really is no way to put a dollar amount on a life that’s been cut short or has been permanently altered as the result of a traumatic event, not to mention the impact on others. That being said, assessing financial damages appears to be the only quantifiable way to measure the losses associated with crime — even if this method may seem cold and calculating.

RELATED: The Costs of Crime and the Benefits of Security Technology, Part 2

Keeping that in mind, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in the United States, the actual cost of a murder is nearly $9 million per incident. The estimated social cost per rape, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, is $267,000. Despite these calculations, how those costs translate in a hospital, K-12 or university setting cannot be fully known or quantified.

Crime does appear to hurt K-12 student academic achievement and enrollment rates. A study released last year by Dongwoo Kim, a postdoctoral fellow for the University of Missouri and Louis-Phillippe Beland, an assistant professor of economics at LSU, found that student grades are negatively affected for up to three years following a school shooting. That same study also found that enrollment in grade nine decreased almost 6 percent after a fatal shooting on campus.

The Center for American Progress estimates the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting cost the school as well as the local and federal government about $48.2 million. Penn State officials say the Jerry Sandusky scandal cost their organization $92 million (although it’s difficult to say that any technology would have prevented the abuse in this particular case). It should also be noted that these numbers don’t take into account the damage these tragedies inflicted on the reputations of the institutions where they took place.

Murders and sexual assaults are the costliest crimes, but other incidents on campus also have a significant financial impact. According to the NIH, larceny/theft in the United States is estimated to cost (in 2008 dollars) $3,532 per incident, while vandalism is estimated to cost $4,860 per incident. In the case of vandalism at a large institution or district where it is common for many of these crimes to occur, the combined annual cost of these incidents can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It is estimated that vandalism [at Arizona State University (ASU)] contributes to over $200,000 annually in facilities costs due to graffiti, skateboarders, and facility or equipment vandalism,” says Laura Ploughe, who is ASU’s director of business applications and planning.

Integration of Technologies, Policies and Training is Key
The value of some security technologies, such as video surveillance, is fairly easy to demonstrate. Campus protection professionals regularly sing the praises of their security cameras because the images enable them to identify and apprehend suspects. If they need to justify their video surveillance expenditures to a hospital CEO, school board or university president, they just pull up the most compelling videos of suspects committing crimes on campus. If their own organization hasn’t adopted video surveillance yet, they can find examples online of security cameras capturing criminals in the act. The images practically speak for themselves.

Other technologies, especially ones that prevent or mitigate crimes or safety issues, are more difficult to value. It’s very challenging to prove that a technology (or a new policy, more foot patrols or any public safety improvement for that matter) has prevented or mitigated a crisis. This poses a particular challenge for locks and access control.

For example, to help teachers lockdown their classrooms as well as provide them with peace of mind, many schools have installed locks on classroom doors that can be locked from the inside during an active shooter event. Fortunately for schools, the likelihood that a particular campus will experience a mass shooting is very small. The downside, however, is that if these locks are only to be used during an active shooter incident, they could be perceived as a poor investment because shootings happen so infrequently. This issue becomes even more pronounced if it has been several months or years since a big tragedy has taken place that has received national media exposure.

However, if the goal of the locks is also to reduce theft, vandalism and other crimes, and the campus tracks these incidents, the value of this solution is easier to see and justify. The campus just needs to compare the number of incidents before and after an installation.

With electronic access control, if the organization can realize additional benefits related to business operations and customer service, such as vending and possible revenue generated by off-campus merchants, the value of an access control solution is even more obvious. These additional functionalities could also encourage students, teachers, clinicians, administrators and other staff who possess magstripe, prox or smart cards to be more responsible with their access credentials.

“The more valuable you make the access card, the less likely people are going to share it with someone else,” says Dave Corbin, who is the director of facilities, engineering, public safety and parking at Newton- Wellesley (Mass.) Hospital. “If it’s only allowing you into parking, that’s one thing, but if it has money on it for the cafeteria, will you really trust your buddy with it?”

Another important key to the success of an organization’s access and lock equipment is its integration with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and other security technologies, such as video surveillance. For example, an access control system that senses a door is being propped open could trigger a security camera, which could then be viewed in real-time by an officer in the dispatch center.

Additionally, the technology must be supported by appropriate policies, procedures and training. If it isn’t, William Nesbitt of Security Management Services International believes the hospital, school or university could increase its liability exposure.

“To misuse the technology is almost worse than not having it in the first place,” he says.

Costs Vary By Campus and System Complexity
There are many factors that determine the price tag of a lock and access control system, including costs associated with the equipment, installation, database, maintenance, policies and training. For this article, CS interviewed several hospital, school and university end users and consultants about what they paid for the various access control and lock solutions they’ve recently installed at their facilities. Not surprisingly, the costs varied greatly (see sidebar).

Some campuses choose to only use mechanical hardware, which is less expensive to install than electronic access control but more expensive to operate. According to Allegion Electronic Lock Portfolio Leader Brad Akin, electronic access control can cost one-and-a-half to twice (or more) to install compared to mechanical hardware. However, offline access control solutions cost about 25 percent less to operate, and real-time wireless access control solutions can cost 75 percent less to operate than mechanical hardware.

Organizations installing a high-end electronic access control system will most likely also be tasked with integrating the student and staff information database(s) with the new access solution. This can be an extremely challenging task, depending on the complexity of the installation, number of campuses, number of students and staff, and the tasks associated with the database.

“In some cases, we can use the database they already have and apply it to more access points,” says Akin. “In other cases, they believe the technology has advanced so much that they look to enhance their current database and invest in incremental features and functions. That includes getting into off-campus dining and tying in [physical] access control with logical access and athletic event ticketing.”

It should be noted that campuses incorporating non-security features such as vending, off-campus dining, library services, etc. in their access credentials are now providing services that may make the institution more attractive to potential students, which may help recruitment efforts.

Because these factors are so variable and the way they interplay is so complex, CS was unable to determine an average cost or formula for this portion of the installation process. The good news is that access control manufacturers now realize their products need to be more compatible with other systems on campus, including HR and student enrollment. As a result, they have made the database integration process easier.

For the end users of an access control system, the management of the database can still be quite challenging, even if it is well designed and integrated. Corbin says that if a campus or district has a lot of people changing jobs, being terminated or being hired, managing all of this data can be quite time consuming. He estimates the database management costs for his hospital are $30,000-$40,000 per year.

“There’s a lot to it,” he says. “It’s an ongoing job. If you have a holiday coming up, you might have a lot of doors that aren’t normally locked that need to be locked. If you look at larger hospitals, they have people dedicated just to database management.”

Needless to say, this challenge also applies to K-12 districts and institutions of higher education where a quarter or more of their student population can turn over every year.

Frequency of Door Use Affects Maintenance Costs
In addition to maintaining the campus database, the lock and access control equipment itself must be maintained. It could be as simple as replacing AA or AAA batteries. Of course, if your campus has 6,000 WiFi-enabled locks that require six AA batteries be replaced twice per year, that’s a significant equipment and labor cost that must be considered.

K-12 safety expert Paul Timm of RETA Security says that mechanical locks don’t require much maintenance but reminds us that other parts of the opening can affect the lock.

“A door closer that is not adjusted properly can prevent a lock from latching and securing the door,” he says. “Settling of the building can cause the latch to not line up correctly with the strike.”

Maintenance costs also vary depending on how much a particular door is used. The price tag for repairs of a high-traffic door with access control, such as the entrance to a hospital emergency room, could be $1,500-$2,000 or more if the door structure has been damaged. The costs associated with a door that is rarely used would be much less.

ASU estimates the annual maintenance cost per door is about $33, although this amount does not take into account the costs for personnel, utilities, and network or infrastructure internal to the university.

RELATED: K-12 Security Upgrade Opportunities You May Have Missed

Additionally, it should be noted that the type of credential used (key, prox card, mag stripe card or smart card) also affects maintenance expenditures. Issuing new keys is much more expensive than reissuing lost or stolen cards, especially if the lost key is a master key, which means the campus has to change out a door’s (or group of doors’) locking mechanism. Akin says that depending on the type of key that is lost or stolen, 25-30 percent of operational savings can be achieved if a campus uses electronic credentials.

Be Certain to Train Users, Adopt the Right Policies
As mentioned previously, it is imperative that staff be properly trained on how to use a campus’ new locks and access control system. Doing so will help address the complaints that legitimate users of the equipment might initially have about inconvenience.

Training can be very straightforward and inexpensive for a small campus with a basic locking or access system installed. Lock companies often provide training at no charge.

According to Christopher Kieta of MCG Consulting Group, larger organizations should also consider taking advantage of lock manufacturer educational offerings.

“The name-brand lock companies do a tremendous job of end user and integrator training,” he says. “If you have a large institution that wants to do their own maintenance, there are avenues for them to become factory certified and be positioned to maintain those locks properly.”

At ASU, training was negotiated up-front during negotiations with the school’s contracted access control vendor so that it is provided at no cost. The training includes:

  • Two hours per each new installation for the department — estimated annually at $500
  • Four hours annually for certification of departments — estimated annually at $500
  • Four hours annually for technology updates — estimated annually at $500
  • 30 minute bi-monthly “tips & tricks” training — estimated annually at $1,500
  • Up to three people to take advanced trainings up to a Silver level with the software manufacturer over the course of the term of the contract (three people at three weeks each) over five years — estimated annually at $1,800
  • Travel, lodging and per-diem to be paid by the university

Going hand-in-hand with training is policy. For less-complex installations, the cost associated with updating access control/lock policies is minimal. According to Timm, for K-12 schools and districts, common policies might include:

  • All unoccupied classrooms are locked and the door is closed
  • Master keys are not to be taken off of the property

For large universities, a consultant might be called in to develop a risk assessment and access policies for higher-risk areas, such as laboratories. One university spent $99,000 in 2005 for this purpose.

Equipment and Installation Cost by Campus
CS interviewed several hospital, school and university end users and consultants about what they paid for the various access control and lock solutions they’ve recently installed at their facilities. Due to the variations in campus/district size, project complexity and equipment installed, there is a wide range of costs.

  • A university in the Midwest installed about 6,000 WiFi-enabled standalone locks (with prox or prox and PIN or NFC), costing $1,600 per door, including installation
  • A university installed more than 4,000 locks and several hundred readers on interior doors, costing $1,200-$1,500 per door, including installation
  • A hospital has added 70-80 readers in three years with the cost per reader being $3,000, including the reader, lock and labor
  • A hospital added 2,000 new locks with the mechanical locks costing about $300 each, keypad locks costing about $1,000 each and card readers costing about $3,500 each (including associated infrastructure). It cost $200-$1,500 to install each lock.
  • Val Verde Unified School District in California installed 300 Salto units at a cost of $500-$700 per lock and installation cost of $200-$300 per lock.
  • According to Paul Timm of RETA Security consulting, Grade 1 cylindrical locks can range from $280-$350 and Grade 1 mortise locks can range from $350-$400 with an installation cost of about $130 (one hour of labor)
  • Access control costs at ASU start at approximately $3,500 for a single reader due to the need for the initial controller. Each reader thereafter averages about $1,500-$1,900, depending on cabling and hardware complexity. “Standardization of the access control solution requires coordination and guidelines, which add to the install costs due to asbestos, fire-stop verification/certification, and quality on the cablework, activation and testing,” says ASU Director of Business Applications and Planning Laura Ploughe.

Check out part two of this article here!

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