Police seek to install security cameras around campus

Interim Provost and Chancellor Robert Easter approved public safety plans to purchase and install a new camera system on campus, said University Chief of Police Barbara O’Connor.

“These problems are happening outside. When we don’t have a picture to go on and we’re relying on witnesses who can’t provide us with a good description of the offender, we want to have another tool to help us solve those crimes,” she said.

O’Connor stressed that the new system would not entail constant surveillance, but that the footage would serve as a reference in the event of an incident.

The new system will add a number of digital cameras to go along with the analog cameras that are already located around campus. O’Connor said an initial purchase will cost around $70,000 to $80,000 and will be made as soon as possible.

“Analog is the difference in the signal the camera produces,” said Detective Tim Hetrick of the University Police Department. “An IP-based camera has better-quality picture, and it’s easier to move the information from one spot to another and store the information.”

Analog cameras are already located on campus buildings such as the Vet Med building and the Activities and Recreation Center. O’Connor said new cameras will go up on various street corners around campus, though she is not sure how many more cameras will be purchased or exactly which streets will have them.

“We started seriously considering it last fall when we started seeing the robberies,” she said. “I met with the camera company mid-December, right around when we were having this spike.”

Hetrick said the department will use the Internet Protocol, or IP, based system. This means it will connect multiple computers and networks into one system.

Tracy Smith, manager of network services for CITES, said she has been working closely with the police in developing the system. Smith also spoke of the benefits of switching to digital IP.

“Analog is typically connected to a DVR or VCR. To get footage you had to go to the place where the system for that camera was set up and record the footage, or be on site to view the cameras live,” Smith said. “Now we can access all of them in one place.”

Hetrick said the new, wireless network is called FireTide, a program used throughout various cities in the nation. He said all of the cameras would be connected to a centralized point under FireTide, allowing for faster and easier access.

Smith said some of the older cameras already in place could be integrated into the new program, but any new camera purchased after that would have to be compatible with the system.

“The real win here is that it makes the police better equipped. They can respond faster,” Smith said. “They have the live data and archived footage available to them with just a couple of clicks of the mouse.”

Smith said the new system allows officials to access the footage from virtually anywhere.

“Police can access it from their cars if they have a mobile-network enabled device. They can log in and view the footage on laptops too.”

Smith also mentioned that both live and pre-recorded video could be accessed from laptops and cell phones with internet service.

Though O’Connor said she could not put a time frame on when the new cameras would go up, she said police will target areas with recurring crime.

Hetrick said he would have liked to see the cameras in place already.

“I would have liked to see these cameras go up a few months ago when this increase in crime happened. But as soon as we get the equipment they will be installed.”