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16 recently installed security cameras now monitor SciLi

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Approximately 185 security cameras now quietly observe locations on Brown’s campus, including Faunce House, the Power Street parking garage and – the newest addition – the 24-hour Friedman Study Center in the Sciences Library.

“The logic behind installing the cameras was to enhance public safety. As we began to think through the implications of the Friedman Center’s extended hours of operation, we wanted to make sure that we provided adequate safety measures,” wrote University Librarian Harriette Hemmasi in an e-mail to The Herald.

There are 16 cameras in the SciLi, according to Hemmasi. Cameras were installed during the construction of the study center, which opened at the beginning of this semester, according to Barbara Schulz, head of facilities and business services at the University Library.

As an additional security measure, guards are present in the building from midnight to 8:30 a.m., Hemmasi added.

Schulz said Mac Systems, which installed the SciLi cameras, furnishes most security camera installations on campus. There were 180 cameras on campus in November 2005, The Herald reported at the time – a sizeable increase from the 60 on campus in 2000.

Given the center’s location off Thayer Street, “it’s easy to see the need for adequate safety considerations,” wrote David Cardoza, technical and support systems manager for the Department of Public Safety, in an e-mail to The Herald.

“Cameras are not there to spy on people. They are there to provide a sense of what’s happening with this building,” Hemmasi said. There is one camera on B level of the SciLi, six on A level, eight on the ground level and one on the mezzanine, she wrote, while others are located outside the building to monitor entrances and exits.

Hemmasi said the cameras help determine the cause of alarms, frequently set off by students exiting doors with fire alarms attached. “Most of the time it is just by accident, someone goes out (an) exit that has a fire alarm attached,” she said.

The cameras can be accessed by security personnel at the library as well as by members of DPS. “The monitor on the guard’s desk at the Sciences Library/Friedman Center is for responding to alarms and door bells,” Schulz wrote, “not for the purpose of monitoring.” She said the images are monitored by DPS for alarm response during the day and that at night “there is more attention given since there is more chance for an incident when there is less staff around.”

In addition to live monitoring, images captured by the cameras at the Friedman Center and other areas on campus are temporarily stored for future reference. “There is a DVR that records activity on the cameras for 60 days, then once that 60 days is finished and the DVR is filled up, it begins writing again,” Hemmasi said.

“In our situation, we don’t intend to archive information to check up on somebody,” she added.

Cardoza wrote that the 16 cameras in the SciLi, though they could be watched in “real time,” are handled like all other University closed-circuit cameras. “Their main purpose is the digital recording of the actual video images,” Cardoza wrote.

“Retrieval of that information is used solely for crime investigations,” he added. Cardoza cited vehicle theft in parking areas, vandalism and bike theft as examples when archived footage would be used.

“To the best of my knowledge we have not had any problems,” Hemmasi said. She added that, should concerns with the current security system arise, a meeting between DPS officials and library administrators would be held to address the situation.

– with additional reporting by Abe Lubetkin

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