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University News

More cameras installed on campus

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 10, 2011

The number of security cameras on campus has increased by nearly 40 percent in the past three years to about 250 cameras this year, according to Chief of Police Mark Porter. In 2008, there were 180 security cameras on campus, up from just 60 in 2000.

With the completion of the Medical Education Building in July, the number will rise to around 275.

“We utilize cameras as part of our comprehensive security program,” Porter said, noting they are used to prevent and investigate crimes. “It’s a growing trend around the country with college campuses.”

Security cameras were installed inside buildings during construction and renovation projects, including in the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center, J. Walter Wilson and the Friedman Study Center. They have also been added on building exteriors and pedestrian pathways.

“We have solved about a half a dozen crimes with these cameras,” Porter said. The Department of Public Safety used footage from security cameras in the Brown Bookstore to identify a suspect after a laptop theft in February, The Herald reported March 3.

There are no plans to install cameras in residence halls, Porter said.

“Our goal isn’t to put cameras up to watch people,” he said. “We’re not just watching students walk around.”

The camera footage is not constantly monitored, Porter said. It is viewed only if DPS is alerted that a crime is in progress or after one occurs. DPS employs two detectives who are specifically trained in how to view the footage, he said.

DPS takes “particular need” into account when installing new cameras, such as if crimes have increased in a particular area. Cameras were added on the eastern area of campus in 2008 in response to a crime trend near Brook and Hope streets.

While the cameras are intended as a deterrent, DPS does not specifically draw attention to them, Porter said. “We know that when we install them, that people will know they’re there.”

Requests for new cameras have not come from the University administration, he said.

Camera technology is “much more affordable than it’s ever been,” Porter said, which has enabled DPS to purchase more cameras. The quality of the equipment is also getting better, he said.

Porter said the cameras may reduce students’ fear of crime, suggesting students walking at night or alone may feel more secure in the presence of cameras.

“I haven’t noticed them,” Katie Goddard ’12 said. But she said she thinks the cameras are a good idea. Daniel Valmas ’12 also said he has not noticed a change in the number of cameras.

“I think that if the information that they take from the videos is used for safety purposes” and not to invade students’ privacy, then there is nothing wrong with the increase, Jaclyn Katz ’14 said.

DPS does not put up cameras just for the sake of doing so, Porter said, but more could be added in the future “if the need arises.”

“We usually evaluate the need based on the area,” he said.

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