American Journal of Criminal Justice

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 102–119 | Cite as

Adding Security, but Subtracting Safety? Exploring Schools’ use of Multiple Visible Security Measures

  • Emily E. Tanner-SmithEmail author
  • Benjamin W. Fisher
  • Lynn A. Addington
  • Joseph H. Gardella


In response to continued concerns over crime and violence, schools are increasingly employing visible security measures such as cameras, metal detectors, and security personnel. These security measures are not mutually exclusive, but few studies have considered the relationship between the use of multiple forms of security and youth’s exposure to drugs, fighting, property crime, and firearms at school. To address this issue, we analyzed nationally representative school administrator-reported data from the School Survey on Crime & Safety, using a quasi-experimental design with propensity scores to adjust for potential confounding factors. The results indicated that utilization of multiple security measures reduced the likelihood of exposure to property crime in high schools, but most other security utilization patterns were associated with poorer school safety outcomes. Our findings provide guidance to policymakers in considering whether to use – or expand – visible school security measures in schools.


School safety School security School surveillance School violence 



This work was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U. S. Department of Education, under Grant R305A120181 to Vanderbilt University. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Peabody Research Institute, Department of Human and Organizational DevelopmentVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminal JusticeUniversity of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Justice, Law & CriminologyAmerican UniversityWashingtonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Human and Organizational DevelopmentVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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