Using video surveillance on college campuses

Answers to common questions about putting digital eyes on campus

Achieving Success

One of the most crucial aspects to the success of a surveillance deployment is integration with other security subsystems, Johnston states. This can include facility and perimeter access control and mass notification vehicles such as public address and voice evacuation systems.

"Video often provides the first piece of the puzzle with notification of an event," Johnston says. "Coupling that information with the ability to remotely lock residence hall or classroom building doors or notify students and staff of a campus wide lockdown could more effectively provide protection during an incident."

Surveillance Growth

Higher education spending on surveillance technology is definitely on the rise, according to Chris Johnston of Bosch Security Systems. Recent market research pegs education as one of the fastest growing markets, with growth rates of nearly 20 percent each year. Johnston credits this growth in part to the adoption of IP technology in the sector, which allows universities to Leverage their current investments in a campus network infrastructure.

"IP allows for scalability and flexibility in a video deployment, meaning Video can be placed anywhere on the network and viewed in multiple locations at one time," Johnston states.

Ray Thrower, president of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, agrees that the flexibility and lower prices of IP cameras means more and more campuses are adding them on their network.

"Universities are using video surveillance as another toot to enhance security on campus," Thrower states. The challenge, he says, is determining how campuses can get the most amount of technology for the money. Schools must determine what technology works best for their campus environment.

In the past, universities managed video surveillance in siloed systems that allowed each department to buy what it wanted. Not only did these departments not talk or work together, but university police were typically frustrated because the video systems were not on the same platform. In addition, police rarely had access to the information.

Today's campus leaders want to build one video security platform with everyone on the same system. Tragedies such as the shootings at Virginia Tech are driving this need as colleges determine how they can better manage crisis situations. Disparate systems don't allow for the ability to use video to deal with a crisis on hand, points out Keith Drummond, of LenSec. These schools desire an enterprise-wide video surveillance system with one game plan for the entire campus.

"With one platform across the entire university--using an IP-based system--individuals can get on any computer using an Internet browser to see any camera on campus," notes Drummond.

Moving to a Digital Video World

With 250 video cameras spread over its five campus locations, not much can get by the public safety officers at St. John's University. This private Catholic university has more than 19,000 students in three New York City locations and graduate programs in Oakdale, N.Y., and Rome, Italy.

After years of using traditional closed circuit television (CCTV) video surveillance technology, St. John's decided to upgrade to advanced digital technology. University officials had the foresight to talk to both the IT and Public Safety departments at the same time to determine what new technologies were available.

"There is a tot of technology available, but we really honed in on what was needed," says Joe Tufano, vice president and CIO at St. John's. "The input from Public Safety through Tom Lawrence and his team is what made this successful." Lawrence spent 23 years as deputy chief on the New York Police Department before joining St. John's as vice president, Public Safety.