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Originally published April 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 17, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Local universities increase security patrols as reassurance

Security patrols were stepped up Monday at local universities as officials sought to reassure students of their safety in the wake of the...

Seattle Times education reporter

Security patrols were stepped up Monday at local universities as officials sought to reassure students of their safety in the wake of the shootings at Virginia Tech.

At the University of Washington, all available officers — including those normally assigned to administrative tasks — were out on patrol, UW Police Chief Vicky Stormo said. The department has about 50 commissioned officers.

"We are making sure the uniforms are out there as much as possible and seen on campus," Stormo said. "Parents and students across the country are concerned."

At Seattle University, officers from the Seattle Police Department were stationed outside the main entrance Monday. And the university's 19-strong private, unarmed security force also stepped up campus patrols to make themselves more visible.

But officials at both universities in Seattle and at Washington State University in Pullman say it's impractical to secure classrooms across large and open campuses.

With more than 200 buildings and about 67,000 students and staff at the UW, Stormo said, there would be resistance from the campus community to the notion of increased security in classrooms.

Stormo said the focus instead remains on minimizing the impact of a shooting should one start.

"We try to contain it, we try to stop the action, and we try to get people safely out of the building," Stormo said.

At Seattle University, officials are working on a program to install plainclothes marshals in each building to make classrooms more secure, said Michael Sletten, director of campus public safety.

Most universities — including Seattle U., the UW and WSU — ban guns from campus other than those carried by police officers. At WSU, a locked room contains at least 50 guns owned by students or staff who keep them there for hunting, said Steve Hansen, the WSU police chief.

Many universities restrict entry to residence halls with key-card access to hallways and locks on individual living quarters.

But Stormo acknowledges that heavy traffic through the dorms enables some people to slip in behind other students who open the doors.

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Plainclothes officers patrol the dorms through the night and uniformed officers during the day, Stormo added.

The UW is still reeling from a murder-suicide two weeks ago. Rebecca Griego was shot and killed where she worked in Gould Hall by her estranged boyfriend, Jonathan Rowan, who then turned the gun on himself. After the shooting, the UW locked down Gould Hall but not the rest of the campus. Police knew fairly quickly that the shooter was dead.

Eric Godfrey, the UW's vice provost for student life, said student counselors have talked with many students in Gould Hall and will be available to other students who feel uncertain after the Virginia Tech shootings.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com

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