Academic Senate approves safety camera monitoring system

The proposed public safety camera system board policy was approved unanimously during the Saddleback College Academic Senate meeting on April 16.

During the discussion of the camera system, the meeting attendees discussed the possibility of an advisory board who would monitor the systems, however moved forward with the policy that would be enforced for the whole South Orange County Community College District.

According to the written policy, “these cameras can be used for detecting and deterring crime, to help safeguard against potential threats to the public, to help manage emergency response situations during natural and man-made disasters and to assist District officials in providing services to the college community.”

Academic Senate Past President Bob Cosgrove said during the meeting that any addition of a campus camera system should be mentioned in the Student Handbook. Although the board policy is just now becoming written, there are already 47 cameras located on the Saddleback campus.

According to Chief of Police Christopher Wilkinson, however, no more cameras are to be installed or changes made until the board policy is officially approved.

“It’s a policy we’ve always had in law enforcement, so we’ve been abiding by this,” Chief of Police Christopher Wilkinson said. “They’re using our existing policy that both police departments have had for a while. It’s fair and equitable, and now we have something in writing.”

The cameras are known as Advidia IP video cameras from Video Insight, a company used by various other universities as well as K – 12 schools. Saddleback was a case study for Video Insight, having had no public camera system prior.

The cameras are not monitored 24/7, and are activated solely by movement. Only Wilkinson and ITs have access to downloading the raw footage. Other police staff can view the footage and print still-shots based on the procedures and policies in place.

“The public safety cameras has been a solution on universities and schools K – 12 for a decade plus, it’s been quite common,” Wilkinson said. “After the Sandy Hook incident, there’s a more heightened awareness so as a group,  when I say group, as a college team, everybody, regardless of title. We needed another tool to enhance or ability to respond and get an idea of what’s going on the campus to enhance safety.”

There are multiple types of cameras available from Video Insight, some even having audio ability. The Advidia A-44 IR camera has two-way audio ability when manually turned on. Currently there are five A-44 IR cameras on campus located near some of the main public doors of the buildings.

During the Academic Senate meeting, some concerns arose about the placement of the cameras and the necessity of them.

“There are some campus security issues and there are some Big Brother issues,” Scott Fredrickson,business/entrepreneurship instructor, said.

Academic Senate President Dan Walsh assured the placement of the cameras to be only in public places of the campus, not found in classrooms or offices so as to not disrupt the Fourth Amendment.

“This solution is the most advanced technology now in the market, so it’s kind of exciting because we’re able to come in here and take the latest working state-of-the-art technology that’s all brand new,” Wilkinson said.

With concerns arising about campus safety during school hours and after, the campus police department brought to the Board of Trustees a presentation about the implementation of a public safety camera system. Wilkinson brought up the idea after having worked in other districts that already carry the public safety camera systems.

“I’ve been having cameras for 10 years at other districts, and so we’re just now catching up,” Wilkinson said. “It’s nice that we get newer technology.”

The first tested area with the cameras was the Child Development Center that holds 17 of the cameras.

“We met with the director, we met with the staff, we go, ‘What do you need? Tell us how you want this solution to work.’ We literally walked the buildings and we said, ‘We can take this technology and put it here and you’ll be able to get this,’” Wilkinson said. “It takes a lot of work and planning on paper so the cameras overlap.”

The overlapping of cameras is used to assure a 360-degree view of the public areas, creating a safer environment without any hidden crevices, according to Wilkinson.

Having gotten a good response from those in the Child Development Center and visitors of the center, the cameras have made way through campus, being used for multiple problems that may arise.

The cameras have so far already assisted in the shooter exercise that was held as well as a mental health issue, said the report put out by Video Insight after the case study was complete.

The systems are being used for a variety of things, such as traffic concerns/accidents, mechanical safety issues, emergency management, etc.

“It’s not just the solution of enhanced personal safety for the students and faculty,” Wilkinson said. “If there’s a major incident, we can look at the cameras and decide how we’re going to respond to that incident.”