Using video surveillance on college campuses

Answers to common questions about putting digital eyes on campus

St. John's worked with IBM to build a network-based integrated digital video system using both existing and new cameras. It started with 165 cameras on the network but expanded to 250 as needs changed and buildings were remodeled. Public Security conducts a risk assessment of buildings to determine camera placement. Two officers in the command center watch 15 monitors 24/7. While cameras have captured live incidents, Lawrence says they are mostly used to gather evidence for investigations.

The new system offers a number of benefits to St. John's and its students, including reliability, functionality, and productivity. Today officers can review digital video at 40 times the speed of VHS tape, which amounts to about five minutes versus watching eight hours of video for a specific incident. The cameras also help public safety officers monitor crowds at events and follow the weather during an emergency situation.

"The new system is so user-friendly," Lawrence says. "Officers bookmark scenes and I can go right to them."

Vicki Powers is a freelance writer who often covers technology issues. She is based in Houston.