Magazine article University Business

Someone to Watch over You: Today's Video Surveillance Technology Is about Much More Than Security

Magazine article University Business

Someone to Watch over You: Today's Video Surveillance Technology Is about Much More Than Security

Article excerpt


WHEN MOST PEOPLE THINK of video surveillance, they think of a Big Brother scenario, where their every move is being monitored. And after a campus tragedy, such as the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, pundits debate whether video surveillance might have pre vented the tragedy. But at colleges and universities, these electronic eyes do much more.

We spoke to three security experts to discuss how video surveillance technology has changed to make surveillance far more intelligent and effective. Our panelists are:

* Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Systems

* Dave Tynan, vice president of marketing for Salient Systems

* Larry Consalvo, senior vice president and corporate director of iXP Corporation.

All three have extensive experience in helping colleges and universities use video technology for safer, more efficient operations. They discussed how modern video surveillance technology can help schools control costs, reduce risk, and keep students and faculty safe.

How is video surveillance being used on college and university campuses today?

Fiel: Cameras are used more for operational purposes than for security, and that's where they are most effective. We use them in cafeterias to monitor the food, how many people come through the line, and so on. We use them in bookstores to monitor suspicious activities. Cameras have come a long way to help the end user.

Consalvo: The ability of these systems to provide high-definition video allows a university to preserve, both live and via archives, any transaction that takes place on a university. That could be anything from a transaction at the cash register in the student union or cafeteria, to vandalism or parking lot safety.

Tynan: And, with network capabilities, you don't always need someone monitoring them. If, for example, a specific door is opened, the video validates the event and an alarm can be pushed out to a smartphone with video, so you can respond quickly from anywhere. If you can activate an alarm and not have someone watching a hundred cameras, you can have a far more productive organization.

Fiel: Cameras are the mainstream. I had over 3,000 when I was the chief of security for the DC school system. I had 163 campuses, but I reduced crime by 90 percent in the inner city. Video cameras are very effective if used properly.

Many schools have had video surveillance for years. Why should they adopt newer technology?

Tynan: There is a great deal of pressure on institutions to migrate from analog systems to network-based digital systems. Courts in the U.S. increasingly view those legacy analog video systems as a liability. The analog-based systems don't provide adequate evidence when provided to the court.

If they can migrate from legacy analog systems to a digital system, they will ultimately save money, because they won't have to devote as much time to investigation. They will have indisputable video and will have an improved percentage of successful investigations. Then they can begin to use the surveillance system as an audit tool to deal with compliance regulations.

What kind of compliance regulations?

Fiel: For one, colleges must comply with the Clery Act, where they have to report serious incidents immediately. If Virginia Tech, for example, had technology like video cameras or mass notification solutions, they could have instantly looked at the cameras before, during, and after the event. If they had proper cameras, they might have been able to catch the shooter earlier, before the second ordeal.


Tynan: You could have high definition cameras in your cafeteria, monitoring the facility for health compliance. Rather than shutting down the cafeteria when a health inspector does an audit, now you can have the inspector come in and review the video. …

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