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UPD installs more cameras in campus residencies

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Smile, you’re on camera! The University Police Department has been adding cameras to the residencies on campus to attempt to combat crime.

This past fall semester, UPD added 20-25 new surveillance cameras to UAlbany’s campus, bringing up the total number cameras to 338.

Most recently, cameras have been installed in elevators on the campus’s residential towers, according to UPD officials.  

Paul Burlingame, the Deputy Chief of Police, said campus police plans to add more this year to  increase coverage in residential areas as well.

Increased focus on residential buildings is largely because levels of crime are higher in residence halls then on the podium, including the academic buildings and the campus center, and the surrounding campus, according to Burlingame.

“Our priorities for setting up new surveillance is to target areas with the highest use and criminal activity,” said Burlingame.

“While crime on campus has generally been on the decline, last year residence halls had a higher rate of crime than on the podiums.”

Seventy-seven thefts were reported to have occurred in the residential halls, compared to 51 were reported throughout the entire podium, according to Burlingame.

The cameras can be costly to purchase and install, sometimes costing UPD up to $5,000 per unit.

Burlingame said that while the cameras are for safety, they do not necessarily make the campus safer.

“A camera will not stop a crime, but it does enhance our ability to solve the crimes that do occur. In the end, we stop crimes to keep the community safer, so in a way, the cameras do keep us safe,” Burlingame said. “Cameras do not replace police work; rather they supply leads to solve crimes.”

In 2016, a student was raped in her dorm room in Dutch Tower by a non-student who had been let into the Tower.

The crime itself was not caught on camera, but cameras installed on the outside of the entrance doors and in the lobby, were used to help identify the man’s identity.

When the surveillance system does capture a person in the act of a crime, it usually involves vandalism, Burlingame said.

Just such a crime led UPD to nab one suspect of vandalism in the basement of Eastman Tower Basement.

“If you go into the hallway we have a metal lining on the walls,” said Charles Rogers, the Senior Associate Director of Residential Life. “We had a young man that every weekend, would for some reason, go into the vending machine room and he kept kicking in that area while drunk.”

A camera that was later installed in one of the vending machines opposite the damaged wall subsequently led to the culprit’s identification and capture.

In the last couple of weeks, Chief Deputy Officer Burlingame said cameras have helped investigators identify suspects in two separate incidents involving property damage on campus.

While some organizations like the ACLU are concerned of potential privacy issues, Rogers said that the cameras are not monitored 24 hours a day and tapes are deleted after 31 days.

Some students still feel like they have not been installed in some crucial residential areas.

“I feel that there should have surveillance in the garbage and laundry rooms. It is especially important that they be in a position that they can’t be reached in those rooms,” Precious Agbo, a sophomore, admitted.

Other students, most of them female, have expressed a similar stance as they are often visiting those rooms in late hours when there are not many people around.

Rogers said this concern was combated by nearby cameras and door locks.

“There might be cameras near those areas but not in those areas,” said Rogers, the residential director.

“The laundry and garbage rooms have lights that turn on automatically as well as doors that are unlocked 24/7,” he said.

However, former resident assistant and UAlbany alum Ivy Spas shared that some laundry room doors do in fact have a locking mechanism on them.

This year, UPD plans to install cameras throughout the south end of Dutch Quad, and they will be upgrading the exterior cameras on the south side of State Quad. They will also be adding to the existing system of cameras currently installed in the ground floor of the Campus Center.

Burlingame’s advice: always remember to keep your dorm room doors locked and not to let strangers into the residence halls.

Michelle Mullen is a staff writer for the Albany Student Press.

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