Alleged gunshot on campus

From Staff reports

Vineland Police responded to reports of a shot fired on Cumberland County College’s campus the evening of Thursday, November 19.

The incident occurred as spectators left the men’s basketball game against Camden County College.

“People were walking to the parking lot and a fight broke out,” said CCC Safety and Security Director Phillip Cecola.

After police broke up the initial altercation and made an arrest, several other fights broke out.

“Police cordoned off the B, C and D lots and were asking people to leave,” Cecola said. “There was a noise and it was reported as a gunshot.”

According to Cecola, no gun or shell casings were found during or after the incident.

After the incident, admission to men and women’s basketball games was restricted to CCC and visiting team students and employees. Only current students and employees displaying valid identification cards were allowed to attend. A limited number of guest passes were also provided to the teams’ coaches to accommodate friends and family of team members.

Additional security measures included a fully staffed campus security presence and crowd control assistance provided by the Vineland Police Department. Until further notice, four uniformed Vineland Police officers will be present at all home games. Two will be stationed at the entrances to the gymnasium, and two will be circulating outside on the grounds and in the parking lots.

“Had there been no incident, we would have had to come up with a policy because we were out of seats for the game and we couldn’t have people standing all over,” Cecola said. “Students would have had first preference either way.”

The incident closely followed a false hostile intruder alert that went out at 1:58 on Tuesday, November 17th. Cecola said the false alarm was the result of a training mishap with the college’s web-based alert application.

“One of the operators was training, but they weren’t in training mode,” he said. “She didn’t know she was live.”

An “all clear” message was sent approximately two minutes   after the original alert, but problems with the message delivery system caused some students and staff to get both messages simultaneously or in the wrong order.

“The system isn’t meant to work that way. It’s not meant to have two messages back-to-back and that’s how the message got garbled,” Cecola said. “Plus, we’re at the mercy of Verizon, Sprint and all the other service providers.”

The false alarm did provide an opportunity to assess the alert system. Many of the students and staff who were in class during the alert were unaware of it or unsure what to do. Many were in class and had their mobile devices turned off.

“With a hostile intruder, we’re trying to reach the 300 to 600 people on campus,” Cecola said. “These messages go out to 5,200 people. We need some kind of audible alert to reach people on campus,” Cecola said. “Still, it beats the old way of going building-to-building.”

Cecola also pointed out that the alert raised some of the issues unique to a hostile intruder scenario, which is different from a fire or bomb scare because evacuation may not be the best course of action.

“All the buildings here are independent and there’s no way to just lock the front door,” he said.

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