University adds new cameras in the halls
With the installation this summer of 156 new cameras in all occupied residence halls around campus, UT Police Department and Office of Residence Life are hoping to reduce crime and improve safety on campus.
New cameras were placed at all entrances and exits in residence buildings, as well as “commons areas” like front desk areas, exercise and laundry rooms, said Interim director of Residence Life Virginia Speight in a statement.
Hall directors attended their first informational meetings Tuesday on the new cameras.
Speight said the new live-streaming cameras will be monitored by both staff at the front desk and employees at UTPD, and footage will be saved for up to 30 days.
Speight said outdated analog cameras were also replaced.
UT Police Chief Jeff Newton said the cameras were meant to increase safety, not necessarily to patrol students’ actions in the halls.
“I think Residence Life just wanted to provide a more secure environment. There are no cameras in Res Hall hallways or where there would be a violation of an expectation of privacy,” Newton said.
In addition, approximately 10 cameras were also added around the Gateway project in parking lots and the Loft entrances and exits, according to Newton.
Newton said while UT has a lower rate of violent offenses, crimes such as theft are too common.
Newton said he hopes the new cameras will both deter would-be criminals and help police solve crimes when they occur.
“Cameras aren’t the end all to be all to solve all your crime problems, but at the same time, they do provide us some evidence and they serve as a crime deterrent, so they have value,” he said.
Keri McManus, a senior majoring in biology, said she has always felt safe during the four years she lived on campus.
“I’ve never had a bad safety experience or an unwanted visitor,” McManus said. “Yes, you have noise disturbances and stuff like that, but you have to know people will act that way when you live in a college dorm.”
McManus said the new cameras make her feel safer and she trusts those in charge of monitoring the cameras.
She said she also sees benefits to adding cameras in places like laundry rooms and exercise areas.
“It’s not like I’m naked and doing laundry or working out with no clothes on,” McManus said.
While he understands and supports the reasons for extra cameras, Nick McCullough, a freshmen majoring in political science and a Parks Tower resident, said having cameras in laundry rooms is an invasion of privacy.
“People in [the laundry room] are doing their own personal business,” McCullough said. “To me, that’s kind of like having a camera in a bathroom.”
McCullough said he feels safe both in his dorm and around campus.
“There’s a really high visibility of UTPD and those blue emergency poles are everywhere, too,” McCullough said.
Gerald Rand, a sophomore who is undecided and lives in International House, said there is never a time on campus that he feels unsafe.
“There are so many different locks and so many doors to get through that if someone who was trying to get in there that shouldn’t be, they’d definitely get stopped,” Rand said.
Rand said he had not notice the cameras, but said he approved of the additional security.
“Safety should be guaranteed for students,” Rand said. “Speaking as someone who could be a parent one day, I would want to know that my kids are safe.”
Rand said he has not seen any education on preventing a crime or self-protection and said he would like to see more of it.
Newton said new avenues of communication with the UTPD Facebook page and the new Text-a-tip system, a non-emergency dispatch line students can text information to, will also increase campus safety.
“Now when you see a crime issue, you can now just text it over,” Newton said. “Whereas in the past you would have been hesitant to call and report it because you didn’t really want to get that involved, or maybe you can’t make a phone call because you’re sitting by the guy on the bus that looks like he’s going through a book bag like it’s Christmas Day.”
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