Security cameras: Making campus more secure

A security camera in the lobby of Tod Hall is one of more than 500 on campus, a tool the YSU police say is critical to campus security.

A security camera in the lobby of Tod Hall is one of more than 500 on campus.

A year ago this month, a student in Kilcawley House reported to a YSU police officer that he had just been punched in the face by his roommate. Officers investigated, took statements from all involved and – called up the video from a camera in the fourth floor hallway of the residence hall.

“There it was as clear as day,” Officer Douglas Pusateri said about the video. “We could see the suspect’s face. We could see the assault. We arrested him.”

The incident is one of many that campus police cite to make the case for the growing importance and number of video cameras to help deter crime, enhance campus safety and, in this case, investigate and solve crime on campus.

“It’s not 100 percent; you can’t have a camera everywhere,” Pusateri said. “But, when you do, well, there’s no arguing with video.”

The YSU Board of Trustees earlier this month approved a new policy regulating the use of the cameras on campus, giving campus police oversight of the video devices, specifying where cameras can and cannot be placed (only public areas, not in private areas) and how the videos can be used.

Police Chief John Beshara said the cameras are a critical component of a comprehensive security plan for the university.

“It is another tool in our tool box to help prevent and deter crime,” he said. “Most universities today utilize some sort of closed circuit camera system to help make their campuses safer.”

The University of Kentucky, for instance, recently announced plans to install 2,000 surveillance cameras on campus. Penn State also recently installed about 450 cameras in residence halls. Wayne State University in Detroit has nearly 850 cameras.

Beshara said YSU began installing video cameras shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, utilizing funding provided by local emergency management agencies. The first installation was Stambaugh Stadium.

Since then, the number of cameras has grown to more than 500, and the equipment is now operating in most campus buildings. For security reasons, Beshara would not talk about specific deployment of cameras. Cameras are used in public places, such as building hallways, entrances and exits. The cameras are prohibited from private areas, such as residence rooms, personal offices and restrooms.

The chief said YSU police have access to monitor all of the cameras in real time but said dispatchers focus on about 100 cameras deployed in what he said are particular “concentration spots.” The cameras also record activity that can be reviewed at a later time, for instance, to investigate crimes.

“We have seen that the cameras not only help us do our job in terms of investigating criminal activity that has occurred,” Beshara said, “but just their very presence can help prevent crime by making people hesitate a little bit and think twice about committing a crime. Overall, it makes for a more secure campus for us all.”