UGA to install stadium surveillance system

Think twice about taking a swing at that obnoxious Tennessee fan in Sanford Stadium next football season.

And if you must do it anyway, smile - police might be taking your picture.

The University of Georgia hopes to install a high-tech video surveillance system by next season in the 92,746-seat Sanford Stadium, the fifth-largest campus football stadium in the country.

UGA has been awarded a federal Homeland Security grant of about $236,000 for the camera system, which will allow police to see and record what happens in almost any corner of the stadium, UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said.

A similar camera system was temporarily installed in the stadium during the 1996 Summer Olympics, when the stadium hedges were removed for the Olympics' largest competition, soccer, Chief Williamson said.

Installing security cameras in Sanford Stadium was one of the recommendations of an emergency preparedness and communications committee that UGA President Michael Adams appointed after a student at Virginia Tech University went on a rampage in April, killing 32 people and himself.

UGA was already trying to secure grant money for the surveillance system even before the committee began work, Chief Williamson said.

The final cost has not yet been determined, and UGA administrators have not said how any additional cost will be paid for beyond the grant amount, Chief Williamson said.

The committee estimated the cost of the Sanford cameras at about $500,000. About half could be paid by the UGA Athletic Association, the rest with grant money, the committee estimated.

The cameras and recording systems won't produce the kind of fuzzy images typical of bank and convenience store cameras.

"One camera on the northwest corner would have the capability of looking at the whole bridge area, the Tate Student Center and all the seating areas," Chief Williamson said.

The system will allow a police worker to scan the entire stadium seating area and areas outside for trouble. Officers who respond to a fast-moving crime scene, such as a fight between fans, will be able to know what's going on before they get there, Chief Williamson said.

Often, officers can't see what's happening when they respond to a fight, heart attack or other incident because people are standing around whatever is happening, obscuring their view, said Maj. Tony Dunn, of the University of Florida Police Department, which uses a high-tech camera system in its Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Lenses in the cameras are powerful enough for officers in a security booth to see what's actually happening, and where, Maj. Dunn said.

The cameras can zoom in on individual faces, Chief Williamson said.

Chief Williamson said he is still working with UGA Athletic Association officials and companies that sell the camera system to design the surveillance system, which will probably include about 16 cameras, he said.


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