Last spring we directed much attention to improving safety on campus and one of the most frequent suggestions we received was to install (video) security cameras on campus. Beginning in the fall of 2007, Trinity has undertaken a phased process of installing a closed circuit system of security cameras to assist us in patrolling the campus, preventing crime on campus, and collecting information to assist with investigations of incidents. All of these endeavors contribute to enhanced campus safety and the protection of people and property. The system is not intended to interfere with the privacy of individuals who are not engaged in criminal activity. It is intended to observe suspicious, dangerous, or illegal behavior; but not to observe people based on group profiles including but not limited to race, gender, age, sexual orientation or expression, clothing styles or membership in a fraternity, sorority, cultural house, or athletic team.
Note: The pre-existing video camera systems, such as those in Mather Hall, are currently not part of this system and therefore, are not actively monitored at this time.
How does it work?
Cameras located around campus send live video to the password-protected monitoring stations for review by authorized Campus Safety staff, who will monitor the system in the evening hours. The video will be simultaneously recorded and archived to provide supporting evidence during the investigation of an incident. The system includes nighttime-mode cameras as well as motion detection technology to enhance the monitor’s ability to “virtually patrol” the campus both day and night. When a system monitor suspects there is trouble, he or she will be able to immediately dispatch an officer to the scene.
Who watches the cameras and who can view recorded material?
Cameras will be routinely monitored by trained Campus Safety staff. Recorded material will be viewed at the discretion of the Director of Campus Safety (or his designee) and only for the purposes of a legitimate investigation. No one other than trained Campus Safety staff may operate the system without express permission from the Director of Campus Safety.
Where are the cameras located and will people be notified that a given area is being monitored?
We will post signs indicating that the campus is subject to video surveillance to remind people that their actions may be monitored and to deter them from engaging in crime. However, we do not want to give a miscreant a road map as to where he or she can and cannot commit a crime away from the camera’s eye.
In the first phase of the project we will have approximately twenty cameras in sample areas that represent the variety of environments on campus where we will want to install cameras. For example, sections of the following outdoor areas will be included: the Lower Long Walk, Crescent Street, and Trinity Commons. In phase two we will extend camera coverage more fully to areas such as common walking routes, main entryways to residence halls, places where staff work late hours, and areas where our experience has shown us incidents are more likely to occur.
How do you determine where new cameras may go?
As mentioned above, the second phase of the project will allow us to incorporate suggestions from the College community and past experience. Other requests will have to come through the appropriate department head and will then have to be approved by the Director of Campus Safety after consultation with the Director of Information Technology and, depending on the location, the appropriate senior officer(s) of the College.
What assurances can you give us that our privacy is not going to be invaded?
Campus Safety staff are trained in the legal and ethical issues involved. In addition, the monitoring stations are located in an open area in Campus Safety. Officers know that they are not to track individuals unless the monitor has reason to suspect the individual is a threat to people or property. The scope of camera coverage does not allow for surveillance of individual rooms and at no time would such coverage be permitted. If anyone has reason to suspect misuse of the camera system then he or she should report it immediately to the Director of Campus Safety, Dean of Students, or Director of Human Resources for investigation and appropriate action.
Can students or employees be subject to disciplinary action based on observations made on video?
Yes. The system is not designed to monitor individuals who do not threaten people or property, but anyone who is involved in behavior that violates the law or rules of the College can be held to account. The cameras are not intended for use by supervisors to monitor employees on the job, but it may be used to investigate certain incidents including those that relate to damage to or loss of College property. It is important to remember that the system is an expansion of what we already do with our officers on patrol. We are merely increasing the scope of what they can see at any given time.
If I am involved in an incident, can I view the video recordings?
Any video evidence that is collected is subject to the same policies of the College judicial process that govern any other type of evidence. In the course of an investigation, you may be asked to view specific recordings in order to identify a suspect, for example. Any other requests must be submitted in writing to the Director of Campus Safety for consideration.
Still have more questions?
Please address any questions, comments, concerns or suggestions to Francisco Ortiz, Director of Campus Safety.