Stephens’ director of security, Tony Coleman, said security finished the installation of the new camera system in May. Since then, the security network has transformed the department’s proactive approach to handling issues surrounding campus.
The security network system has 41 different views, but the estimated $50,000 project is only phase one of a three-part initiative for the security department. Coleman said each year, as the budget allows, the department plans to institute 12 to 15 more cameras, adding roughly 40 more views in less-covered areas like the senior quad.
“We wanted to have the ability to pick someone up, for example, if they came into view over by Senior Hall, and they literally cut all the way through campus, we’d be able to pick them up through their entire path,” Coleman said.
The cameras not only provide evidence in solving issues or identifying individuals from past incidents, but they also add another layer to security’s proactive approach to campus activity.
“It allows us to see things in the past that we haven’t been able to see,” Coleman said. “When we’re able to monitor them live, then we’re able to catch that activity that’s suspicious or draws our attention and respond.”
The footage has also served as a training tool for resident assistants and directors in identifying the type of security needed to protect each residential building. In some of the security footage shown, the cameras catch individuals stealing bikes and parking signs and others walking up to residential buildings trying to get inside. Emily Wagner-Davis, the resident director for Tower Hall, said the footage increased her awareness of the safety of her building and has helped protect it from unwarranted visitors.
“Multiple times, girls have come up to me and said, ‘Someone is sitting outside. I don’t really know who he is or what’s happening,’” Wagner-Davis said. “I’ll call security and have them go and talk to him, or they’ll take a look at the security footage and see how long he’s been there. Sometimes, they’ll give him five more minutes to see if a girl comes down.”
National tragedies like the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. and past issues like the arson in 2011 have created a closer watch on Stephens’ children’s school. Video door-entry systems at both entrances allow those inside the school to see who’s at the door before they even walk in.
And, based on this increase of activity, Coleman said they will hire more staff to help monitor the network system and the campus. A YouTube video produced during the summer by a bystander captured an altercation involving security officers after an individual on campus swung at one of the officers.
“Because of the number of physical altercations that we’ve been involved in recently, we need to increase the staff and reduce those times when we only have one or two officers on duty so that we can cover more of the campus physically,” Coleman said.
With an increase in security staff and more cameras on the way, some students question personal privacy, but Wagner-Davis said the benefits outweigh those doubts.
“We’re in the middle of Columbia, in the middle of two really big colleges, right downtown, and there have been issues over the summer with shootings and things like that,” Wagner-Davis said. “It makes me feel comfortable having them.”
To ensure campus safety even further, Coleman said at the end of October, security officers were certified to carry and use pepper spray and expandable batons.
Story by senior Angel Mendez