Eyes in Sky Coming to UMd. Security Cameras to Be Installed

Article excerpt

Nine armed robberies between February and May prompted the University of Maryland to do something about security on its College Park campus.

Soon the 35,000-student campus will be monitored by two dozen eyes in the sky.

Twenty-four security cameras will be installed in outside locations across the campus in an effort to cut down on crime, such as the outbreak of armed robberies that remain unsolved.

"We had so little to go on as far as suspects in those crimes," said Maj. Michael McNair, deputy chief of police at the university. "With cameras, we would eliminate countless hours of interviewing people who may or may not have seen something, and instead look on the tape and see the person for ourselves."

Maj. McNair also believes the cameras will make crime investigations more accurate.

"Cameras are really good at showing what is actually happening. There's no way to distort or dispute the information on a videotape," he said.

The system will focus on isolated and high-traffic pedestrian areas on the main campus as well as parking lots and automated teller machines.

A test camera currently is mounted on a 3-foot metal pole on the corner of the South Campus Dining Hall's roof. It overlooks a parking lot, some classroom buildings and an ATM.

The camera is enclosed in a black "environmental dome" that resembles an eyeball peering across the campus. The shape of the dome is supposed to keep people on ground level from seeing where the camera is pointed. The square cover around the dome makes the system look more like an outside light than a security camera.

The camera is monitored by a single television screen in the Student Police Auxiliary Building. Once all of the cameras are in place, four screens will be used to monitor the campus.

About 150 undergraduate student police aides will be trained to monitor the screens and manually control the cameras using a keypad. Autofocus capabilities allow the cameras to zoom in on license plates.

James Beckman, 22, a student police aide from Westminster, thinks the cameras are a great idea.

"The security cameras will help to deter criminals on our campus. If someone doesn't do something to stop them now, crime will be on a drastic rise," said Mr. Beckman, a senior engineering major.

The camera sites were chosen by the President's Security Advisory Committee, a group of students who work with University President William Kirwan on safety issues. …