GC chases crime with cameras

Chris Collier | Senior Writer | Oct. 30, 2019

GC’s campus is armed with more than 400 surveillance cameras, and University Housing currently operates more than half of them.

“They [University Housing] really kind of started the camera upgrades that we’ve done over the years,” said Michael Baker, lieutenant of Administrative Services and Emergency Management at GC Public Safety.

Larry Christenson, executive director of University Housing, arrived at GC in 2006, a time when the school had no active security cameras. Christenson has been integral to GC’s surveillance camera initiative.

“For me, security cameras are kind of like an insurance policy,” Christenson said. “It’s one of those kinds of things where we’re not always necessarily going to catch the activity, but we’re going to catch the person often involved in the activity.”

GC residence halls have cameras located in their public courtyards, entrance halls and exit doors. The cameras capture images of every individual entering or leaving a building.

“We’ve had an incident happen on central campus that involved a residence hall student,” Christenson said. “We literally got a description of them, and we watched them move from the camera of Sanford to the camera of Wells to the camera of Parkhurst and walk into the building.”

Although cameras are effective crime-deterrence tools, Lt. Baker said, they aren’t guaranteed to provide results.

“They are useful when we have the incident on camera, naturally, but there are just so many different factors that play [into] that,” Baker said.

Lighting, time of day and the speed at which the incident occurred all factor into how effective a camera can be in stopping and deterring crime. 

Christenson has advice for all GC students, faculty and staff.

“I always tell people that I wouldn’t assume that I’m anywhere on campus that might not be recorded,” Christenson said. 

A high number of cameras raise privacy concerns. 

Some American universities deploy cameras within residence halls in vending rooms and corridors.

“I try to avoid that,” Christenson said. “I think that’s a little bit invasive on people’s privacy—of knowing who’s coming and going on a floor, who’s going into a room or something like that. The cameras at the entrance and exit doors usually suffice in helping us identify issues.”

Baker said the lack of live-monitoring, 24/7 camera surveillance should alleviate any privacy concerns.

“Basically, it’s [surveillance] just used as an investigative tool that we can go back [to] and review reported instances on and around campus,” Baker said.

Chandler New, a junior management information systems major, supports more surveillance.

“I think that for the majority of the school population, they go about their day not knowing about them [cameras] and also keeping peace in their mind,” New said. “I think for the slim population that wants to commit crimes—they are the ones who are worried about them.”