The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

    UIPD’s security camera plan lacks effectiveness

    Security cameras will not be out of style anytime soon — as long as you have the money to pay for them. According to detective Tim Hetrick, of the University of Illinois Police Department Technical Services division, they range anywhere from $300 to $3,000 depending on location and desired function.

    Now consider this: That camera could be part of a larger surveillance network within one department. And the financial burden mounts.

    University Police says that approximately 1000 cameras will be stationed across campus by this time next year. That number has rapidly grown since 2008, when the police undertook this project by installing 13 cameras, according to a Daily Illini article published earlier this week.

    There are currently 900 cameras watching University students and about 25 projects in progress. And you can expect that number to steadily increase as more and more buildings pop up on campus.

    It would be one thing if all of this money came out of the police department’s pocket, but it doesn’t. Individual departments are responsible for supplying the money needed to fund these increasingly expensive gadgets, just like those departments are accountable for office and cleaning supplies.

      Sign up for our newsletter!

      But at some point down the line, the costs and maintenance of these valuable units will outweigh the obvious advantages of security cameras – the ability to view footage after an incident or the possibility that those cameras could help deter crime.

      When does the cost of the cameras outweigh their benefits?

      Students aren’t continually monitored, according to the police department, which says it primarily uses the footage to find possible suspects at the scene where a crime was reported.

      These cameras do not actually deter crime as it happens; they are only beneficial after a crime has already occurred. 

      The surveillance needs to be more publicized — not the location of these cameras — but their addition to those specific units. The media, in part, plays a role in that, but the police department should drive the message.

      And then, hopefully, students will be less tempted to take one of their peers’ personal belongings at the Grainger Engineering Library, or marginally deterred from committing more serious crimes elsewhere.

      Privacy, in public areas, is not a legal concern. When footage is released, having coverage of literally every foot of campus can open up the possibility of exposing those who are present at the scene of a crime, but also those not actually committing a criminal act.

      But the biggest worry is using these cameras in an effective manner, so there is not a need to continuously build up our surveillance force every year. For example, certain departments can put a cap on coverage, even if they have sufficient money to do otherwise. On the other hand, more cameras are essential in areas publicized as having high-theft activity such as the University’s extensive library system or residence halls. But we also encourage more collaboration between units when a single camera covers a large area, especially when jurisdictions overlap.

      There’s no need for the University to play big brother with these security cameras.  Considering the fact that the only benefit we have seen from these cameras is in solving crimes and not necessarily preventing them, the UIPD should be focusing their efforts on ways to stop crime before it happens. Steadily increasing the presence of security cameras on campus should not replace crime fighting efforts by the UIPD —  it should be supplemental. 

      More to Discover