Security Cameras pic

A student exits the University Police Department headquarters Jan. 27. UPD and Northwest's Facilities Capital Management Team are working to install roughly 300 security cameras at entry and exit points across campus. 

Northwest has been working to obtain more security cameras around campus for years as a way to fill gaps in the University’s ability to track potential crime.

In November 2020, this vision for enhanced security became a reality as the University Police Department worked with the Facilities Capital Management Team to begin the installation of cameras in areas that needed them.

When the project is finished, approximately 300 security cameras will be located in entry and exit points of facilities across campus, with a focus on residence hall building entrances and other key areas that UPD is still contemplating. 

UPD Police Chief Clarence Green said the need for additional cameras stems from the institution as a whole recognizing ways to further campus safety.

“We’re trying to get caught up with our security measures,” Green said. “We will have some additional capabilities of recording key areas. Along with our preventative patrol, we feel this will enhance campus security.”

Green also said the University has received survey feedback in the last couple years referencing campus outdoor lighting as an issue. He said Northwest took a healthy effort this past fall to improve lighting in areas of concern, like in front of Wells Hall, where a tall, brighter light was installed.

In similarly dark areas across campus, UPD has put a focus on addressing ways to lighten paths people walk on. In reference to survey results, UPD met with Facility Services to see what exactly needed to be done.

Both departments saw that replacing old poles and putting in LED lights would provide a brighter, energy efficient solution to darkened areas.

“It’s not really adding a lot of new lighting. … It’s about changing the fixture,” Green said.

The new security cameras will rarely be monitored live, Green said, but rather used to go back and pull information for detection purposes. UPD will be trained on how to use the new security camera system by March, and the system is expected to be fully operational by fall 2021. 

Resident Director Jacob Wood serves as his department’s liaison to the UPD. He oversees South and North Complex, student conducts that happen in facilities, works with student staff and ensures all other management of the buildings are taken care of.

He said the new cameras will be a great benefit to residence hall directors when dealing with student conduct meetings and tracking situations where people shouldn’t be in the residence halls.

“We can easily see when they came into the building, left the building … and they’re also positioned by the vending machines which will be nice,” Wood said.

There have been instances where the wrong people use Bearcat cards to make purchases at vending machines around campus. Now, cameras are positioned near them to combat this issue, Wood explained.

Wood also said having the cameras provides an extra sense of security since before, the residence halls had to rely and trust in the key fob system. While mostly effective, Wood noted that some students would hold the door for others, which can create problems.

“It’s really beneficial that we have every single entry and exit to our facilities covered,” Wood said. “We do have RA staff who make rounds in the building to make sure things are secure, but this is going to be that extra level of protection we didn’t have before.”

Though UPD and other departments are working on minor gaps in campus security, Northwest was ranked high on a nationwide “safest college” list. The institution was named the safest college in Missouri by Your Local Security, a company providing home security and safety tools.

Several factors went into Northwest’s ranking, including rates of hate crime, property crime, violent crime and crime against women. The company also reviewed the U.S. Department of Education Campus Safety and Security data and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. 

Northwest made the No. 42 ranking out of 385 total institutions surveyed. 

Other programs at the University have aided in providing an additional level of safety for students. According to Northwest, since its inception, the Safe Ride Home Program has led to reducing driving while intoxicated violations more than 63%. 

UPD also reports that more than 90% of students with whom officers interact in a judicial manner rate their experience as a quality one.

After the spring 2021 semester, Green said there are potentially two additional phases to the digital video plan for the security cameras around Northwest’s campus.

The first phase, of which is scheduled to be completed by March, is having cameras in entry and exit points across campus. Phase two is described as a deeper look internally, with cameras in public places within facilities around campus, and phase three will focus on parking lots and other key external areas.

Northwest's information technology team has worked to set up the wiring, internet and other technological aspects of the camera system. Several other departments, including residential life, academics, student affairs, auxiliary services and others, all helped to make this project happen. 

Green said the new cameras help aid the department’s overall approach to campus safety in that they create a preventative environment. 

“We try to really work hard to design our environment to help prevent crime,” Green said. “Those cameras are important, from a preventative perspective, since people are less likely to commit crimes knowing they are being recorded.”

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