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Allied Universal security personnel have ideas for enhancing safety protocols

Allied Universal Security guards talking while on duty by the front gate on campus. (Juan Benn Jr./The Hilltop) 

Crime in the D.C. area increased by 39 percent last year, and students at Howard are experiencing this shift firsthand on and around campus

A core aspect of campus safety includes the Allied Universal Personnel who occupy the front desks in many on-campus buildings including dormitories, and survey the campus overall. 

Allied Universal is a security and facilities services company founded in 1957, with the mission of providing “proactive security services,” technology and “tailored solutions” to assist their clients. According to their website, clients include K-12 and higher education, condominiums, government institutions and construction sites.  

An Allied Universal security guard, Guard 1, who preferred to remain anonymous citing fear of termination, has worked at numerous locations around campus including Drew Hall, Cook Hall, Howard Towers East and West and the main gate since August. 

He takes pride in working as a security guard on Howard’s campus.

“We’re really here to keep the peace and give a presence to [students] that the area is safe,” he said. 

In a situation where a student might be physically attacked, however, a presence is exactly what this security guard, and others, said they’re instructed to be. As contracted Allied Universal personnel, there are certain standards and rules that they must adhere to. 

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Another security guard, Guard 2, who also prefers to remain anonymous citing fear of termination, has worked for Allied Universal for nearly two years. She described her current position as a guard in one of the freshman dorms on campus as mainly concierge and security. 

She said guards are not allowed to leave their posts and are prohibited from entering any other floor of the building.

“If there are any incidents or anything happens, for instance, if [students in the dorm] get into a fight, we can’t physically break it up,” she said. “We can intervene, telling you all to stop, but we have to contact campus police. We are security officers, so we can’t do anything but observe.”

In a statement emailed to The Hilltop, an Allied Universal representative declined to comment on specific security protocols provided to Howard due to client confidentiality but spoke to the training and preparedness of its officers.

“The company requires all of its security professionals to participate in training programs that focus on a wide range of practices and procedures such as situational awareness, de-escalation techniques and customer service,” the statement said.

The Hilltop reached out to Howard’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) to inquire about the working relationship between the department and Allied Universal but did not receive a response in time for publication. 

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Allied Universal personnel working on campus are not allowed to use physical force in any circumstances, multiple guards said. If there is an incident, they are instructed to notify DPS. 

According to Guard 2, the guards who work on campus are referred to as SO officers. When dealing with situations at their posts, they are only able to report the issue and call DPS for assistance. SPOs, on the other hand, can detain or intervene in situations.

SOs are “Security Officers” while SPOs are “Special Police Officers.” SOs have to patrol and survey buildings but they do not have the authority to arrest anyone, nor are they able to carry a firearm. SPOs, however, can carry firearms and do have the authority to arrest specifically on their contracted property to protect, according to the MPD website. 

Lulya Amine, a freshman criminology major from Philadelphia, currently resides in College Hall North. She believes that guards on campus should be able to use physical force to protect students properly. 

“Having security guards who aren’t able to use force is just putting on a front. It’s a waste of money because they can’t really do anything to protect students,” Amine said. “Guards on campus should at least have tasers, not a gun, but just something to stall in a dangerous situation. Otherwise, it just seems performative and like we’re not really being protected.” 

Keona Jackson, a security personnel at Howard for the past four-and-a-half years, said she loves working as a guard on campus. Jackson previously worked as security through a previously contracted company, “City Security.”

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Jackson has worked in a plethora of buildings on campus including Burr Gymnasium, Wayne Frederick A.I. Undergraduate Library and the Charter school, although she currently guards the MET building. 

Jackson said because of the MET building’s location, being essentially “off campus,” she believes that there should be armed officers on duty.

“I think some of the buildings need two officers: an unarmed and an armed officer,” she said. SPOs carry weapons such as handcuffs, batons, etc, according to Jackson. 

According to Guard 2, although she doesn’t feel using physical force is necessary to properly do her job as a guard on campus, she said she believes there needs to be an increase of DPS officers working alongside Allied personnel. 

“I think there should be more of Howard’s police on campus just because of where the campus is located. Having more would stop a lot of the crime that’s going on on, and around the campus,” she said. “There shouldn’t just be Allied guards working. Campus police should be sitting outside of every dorm, not just when something happens they come.” 

Some of the guards who work on campus are not up to standard with how Allied Universal hires them to be, Guard 1 said. He said he believes that his job is important, and should be considered as such. 

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“You have certain individuals that come to work lazy. If you don’t like your job then don’t come,” he said. “This is a serious job. This is our future – the Black community. It’s precious to me, I love seeing y’all [students] get to work every day.”

According to Guard 1, any situations that may arise about students or even employees of Allied Universal on campus, the company looks into and deals with head-on.

“Allied is on top of their Ps and Qs when it comes to their employees,” he said. “If there are any problems they always look into it, they always make us do reports.”

Although Guard 2 said she feels safe at her current post, there are some dormitories on campus she prefers not to guard, including East and West Towers Plaza. There, she said, guards have to be extra vigilant. 

“I feel safe in the areas and buildings I work in on campus. If I was working on the other side of campus, at Towers, since there’s more going on over there I wouldn’t feel as safe,” she said. “Towers have more adults and upperclassmen. There, you really have to be on your Ps and Qs.”

Nirvana Gomez, a second-year fashion design major from New York City, felt that the security guards at Towers are helpful when they can be. She recalled a time when a non-resident was trying to enter the building and was quickly stopped by security. But, she says she also feels that they do not go above and beyond either.

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“I don’t feel like they’re often paid enough, so I don’t think that they’re willing to do many things that are above their pay grade,” she said.

Like many other students, Gomez found concern in the fact that the security officers were not able to physically engage with others if things were to escalate.

“At the end of the day, yes, we should always be able to protect ourselves, but there are certain people who are not really capable of that. What are they supposed to do?” she said. 

Guard 2 said that according to all of the roles Allied Universal employees play working on campus, they deserve higher pay. 

“We deal with students, cases of emergencies, identification, checking people in and out, maintaining the phones, and overseeing the building,” she said. “When we were first hired, some people were misled that they were going to be paid a certain amount of money, and they didn’t get it. They also go through a lot of officers. The turnout rate wouldn’t be like that if they paid guards how they should.”

Copy edited by Alana Matthew 

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