Hundreds of cameras keep watch over U

The University started with a dozen security cameras in the 1980s and is on its way to having 700 around campus.

Elizabeth Cook

Students are being watched at the University whether they like it or not.

The Department of Central Security for the University, located on University Avenue Southeast, monitors 670 cameras, said Steve Frisk, operations supervisor of surveillance operations.

The monitoring center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with two employees watching the feed at all times.

The University started installing security cameras in the 1980s, Frisk said, in response to sexual assaults in the Oak Street ramp and the old East River Road ramp.

The University started with a dozen cameras, and now it is on the way to 700, he said.

A majority of these cameras, 444 of them, are in parking ramps and lots.

For example, the Washington Avenue ramp has 92 cameras, all of which are monitored.

There are cameras in the tunnel from the Radisson University Hotel to the McNamara Alumni Center and in the skyway from the ramp to the hotel, Frisk said.

Security cameras watch research areas, Coffman Union, steam tunnels, loading docks and even the Kirby Student Center in Duluth, Frisk said.

There are cameras in some of the computer labs on campus, but right now they are not monitored through central security, Frisk said.

Ben Schnabel, the University’s Security Monitor Program manager said not all security cameras are hooked up to central security because the monitors in the individual buildings know what to look for in their individual labs.

Lawrence Le May, an Academic and Distributed Computing Services lab manager for the Institute of Technology computer facilities, said the cameras in Lind Hall, the civil engineering building, the mechanical engineering building and the electrical engineering/computer science building are all “real.”

There are two different systems in those buildings. One records activity in the labs, which the lab consultants monitor. The other is Web-based and gives the monitors the ability to zoom in and tilt, but those do not record, Le May said.

Steve Johnson, University Police Department deputy chief, said police often review tapes from security cameras when trying to solve crimes.

Johnson said the point of the video cameras is to help protect people and deter crime.

If criminals see the cameras, “they’re probably going to go somewhere else to commit the crime,” Johnson said.

Labs in the Carlson School of Management are also equipped with cameras, but they are “not intended for security,” said Douglas Lund, the director of information technology for the Carlson School.

“The cameras that are in the labs are primarily for monitoring when labs aren’t open,” Lund said. “They are meant to protect the equipment.”

Computer science graduate student Archana Mohan said she likes that the University has security resources.

“I think it’s good to have cameras because it makes you feel more safe,” Mohan said.

But it’s not only cameras watching the buildings; there are also 160 security monitors.

Security monitors watch and patrol all 10 residence halls, the five major libraries, the Academic Health Center areas, the Carlson School, the West Bank Office Building, the College of Veterinary Medicine buildings and the Community-University Health Care Center, Schnabel said.

Security monitors monitor the security cameras only after hours at the digital technology center at Walter Library.

But even with all the security cameras on campus, some students don’t feel safe.

First-year anthropology student Drew Yerkes said he didn’t know there were that many cameras on campus and thinks it’s too many to monitor.

“If there’s so many, I doubt they’re monitoring all of them,” Yerkes said.