Public Safety to implement video security on campus
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 00:09
The Department of Public and Environmental Safety (DPES) announced on Sept. 13 that it plans to install a video security system on all three Tufts campuses for the purpose of crime deterrence, real−time incident awareness and post−crime investigation.
The cameras will be used primarily to discourage crime, so most of the camera footage will not be watched, according to Director of Public and Environmental Safety Kevin Maguire. Videos will be overwritten after 30 days unless there is reason to preserve them for criminal investigation.
DPES has created around 90 percent of the policy and procedure describing how the department will govern installation and the use of video security, Maguire said. The next step is completing an assessment of each location’s security needs.
“There’s a needs assessment that is currently underway for each facility on all of our campuses in relation to video security, and it’s based on risk reduction strategy,” Maguire said. “We take a look at each facility, and we determine if installation of video security can reduce the risk for that particular facility.”
Maguire hopes that the policy will be approved and the needs assessment completed by late November or early December. Camera installation in the highest risk areas will start in January, according to Tufts University Police Department Deputy Chief Linda O’Brien.
“It’s going to be a phased−in plan,” she said. “The X amount of cameras that are determined to be needed won’t all be put in all in January.”
The quantity and locations of the cameras will be chosen after the needs assessment is completed, but Maguire clarified that they will not be installed in residence halls, bathrooms or locker rooms.
“By law, we cannot install video security where anyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy,” he said.
Director of Emergency Management Geoffrey Bartlett cited the rooftop of Tisch Library as a location where some students felt cameras would be obtrusive because of the area’s cultural significance.
“We want to put the cameras where the risks are highest, but we want to be sensitive to where the community is letting us know that it’s not part of how they see the Tufts community with cameras there,” Bartlett said.
Cameras will be installed in plain sight, Maguire said.
“They’ll be highly visible,” he said. “Criminals engage in their own risk assessment and they come on campus to see if they can target a particular facility and if they see video security employed, they’re more likely than not to go elsewhere because they fear being detected.”
Though there is still not a price tag on the process, Maguire said that the university has yet to determine how to pay for camera installation. Students’ tuition will not increase as a result, he added.
To receive input from Tufts faculty, staff and students, DPES held community meetings on the Medford/Somerville, Grafton and Boston campuses last week. More than two−dozen students attended the Medford/Somerville forum on Sept. 18.
The Medford/Somerville campus currently has limited video security, with several cameras in Cousens Gymnasium, the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center and the laboratories at 200 Boston Ave., according to Maguire.
At the community meeting, Bartlett said that the installation of cameras in Cousens Gymnasium helped reduce thefts from more than a dozen per year in the late 2000s, most of which went unsolved, to just two thefts in 2011 and one so far in 2012.
Sophomore Joshua Liebow−Feeser publicly opposed the video security plan through an op−ed in the Sept. 18 issue of the Daily and by creating a Facebook event encouraging students to voice their opposition at the community meeting that evening.
After the DPES employees and other officials addressed students’ questions and concerns at the meeting, Liebow−Feeser said he still opposed the security system because of privacy issues.
“The campus as people experience it emotionally is sort of like their backyard in a way,” he said. “There’s a lot of pseudo−private activity that happens on campus outside of the dorm buildings where I do think we have somewhat of an expectation of privacy.”
He hopes DPES will hold another community meeting as the planning and installation process progresses so that students can learn more as information is made available.
Maguire encourages faculty, staff and students to submit any questions, comments or concerns through a form on the department’s website, as DPES plans to take everyone’s comments into consideration when crafting their policy and deciding where cameras will be placed.
“We’re sworn law enforcement professionals, charged with protecting people’s constitutional and civil rights,” Maguire said. “We’ll use this powerful technology responsibly and carefully and deploy it where we can reduce risk.”