A year after partnering with X7 Systems Integrations and an extremely photogenic crash-test dummy named Ken, Virginia Tech has found that its installation of surveillance cameras around campus to increase security very successful thus far.
Using Ken, technicians from the Fairfax, Va.-based surveillance company were able to pinpoint specific settings to create quality images with each individual camera. Once the cameras were set-up, the Tech police department went to work on utilizing the new system to help supplement the security tools already set in place, like bike racks, which discourage theft, and the blue-light emergency phones scattered about campus.
So far, 82 cameras have been installed on campus, and the plan is to add about another 170 to get a total of around 250 surveillance cameras that only the Blacksburg and Tech police departments will have access to. Chief of Virginia Tech Police Wendell Flinchum has previously stated that the cameras won’t be monitored 24/7, but will be used to fill in the details of reported criminal activities.
The surveillance system proposal is comprised of three phases. Phase one was the addition of cameras to the Perry Street parking garage, while phase two is the ongoing placement of the surveillance cameras around campus, which is hoped to be completed by this time next year.
“Phase three is a bit more of an on-going concept than an actual step. It’s comprised of ideas we ask ourselves, like ‘How has the installation been beneficial to the community?’ and ‘Should we look into more cameras?” said Mark Owczarski, the assistant vice president of Tech’s news and information department.
Owczarski also noted the cameras’ ability to help the university by gathering statistical information to help improve the campus, like the ability to find out where and when the most people tend to walk during the course of the day. Information like this could lead to an expansion of sidewalks to increase the flow of foot traffic during regular campus hours or sporting events.
However, the addition of the surveillance cameras hasn’t created an all-encompassing security system. The most success has been found when the police department couples images that they obtain from the cameras with that of their highly successful social media platform.
“In one instance, a suspect turned themself in when they saw their picture on the Virginia Tech Police Department’s Facebook page,” said Brenda van Gelder, executive director of the converged technologies for security, safety and resilience division. “That image was a still from one of the newly installed cameras across campus.”
After receiving a call shortly before 1:00 p.m. in late October 2012 regarding an attempted robbery, Blacksburg police were able to match the description of the suspect, Evan Lee Stump, 26, of Radford, Va., and his vehicle to another robbery attempt that occurred later in the Perry Street parking garage, which is where one of the initial phase one cameras were installed on campus.
The resulting capture was uploaded to the VTPD Twitter and Facebook pages, and Stump turned himself in without incident.