UMPD uses technology to secure U

University police use card readers, video surveillance and GPS-enabled bait to stop crime.

by Katelyn Faulks

As technology advances, the University of Minnesota is increasingly using it to curb crime on campus.

In the last decade, the University has invested $16 million in campus security systems. In response to recent crimes on and around campus, President Eric Kaler said in a Nov. 12 email to students, faculty and staff that the University will add to the 1,700 cameras on campus and evaluate building access to increase campus security.

According to University police statistics, crime has dropped 7 percent in the first 10 months of the year since 2012. From 2002 to 2012, on-campus crime decreased by 43 percent.

University officials installed the first portion of the U Card access system in 1994 when Mariucci Arena was built. Now 158 buildings use the card access control system.

“In all cards today, there’s a smart chip,” Department of Central Security assistant director Steve Jorgenson said. “The nice thing about having the system like that is if you lost the card, you can report it and your clearances can be removed.”

If students used a key and someone stole it, officials would have to rekey the building, he said. The U Card system is more cost-efficient, he said, and ensures that only people with a card can gain access into the building.

Biochemistry freshman Amanda Tait said the system isn’t as secure because students often let in people who might not have a U Card. She also said it would be difficult to know if a student was a threat or if they were just drunk and forgot their U Card.

Jorgenson said the system itself is secure because it can’t be hacked, but it’s up to students to prevent tailgating.

The University’s video surveillance systems have also expanded over the years. The University’s Public Safety Emergency Communication Center monitors video footage continually throughout the year.

“During the day, we pay closer attention to the public areas,” PSECC manager Jeffrey Lessard said. “On the night shift, we pay closer attention to parking ramp cameras or stairwell cameras.”

Those areas are more likely to see suspicious activity at night, he said. When University police report any crimes to the center, Lessard said, the operators can review footage of the area to look for suspects.

Linguistics freshman Maria Drange said the cameras made her feel safer, but suspects can be misidentified.

Following the armed robbery in Anderson Hall on Nov. 11, University police sent students, faculty and staff a photo of an alleged suspect taken from a security camera. The suspect was quickly cleared of any wrongdoing after identifying himself to police.

Lessard said the camera’s quality is high enough to identify faces and license plates easily.

For the past few years, Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said University police have used technology in vehicles to keep track of crime locations and times to map out and analyze trends on and around campus.

Police are also using GPS-enabled bikes, computers and tablets as bait to catch thieves.

“It creates a trail,” he said. “If somebody steals one of the devices, we can follow it on a map … and dispatch police officers to catch people in the act.”

Miner said the University doesn’t have a written lockdown procedure. The department deals which each situation differently, he said, depending on the threat.

In the event of a bomb threat, for example, Miner said officials would likely clear the building, notify campus through the text message alert system and outdoor speakers, and electronically lock the building until the area is clear of danger.

Jorgenson said while technology can help increase security, it’s up to everyone on campus to make sure they follow the correct procedures to keep campus safe.

“Everybody has a role within the security,” he said.