U. Alabama Dorms Get Cameras, New Card Readers

April 21, 2006
UA to install an integrated security management system, RFID cards, held door alarms

This fall, many dorms will have security cameras and new readers for ACTion card entry as University of Alabama officials try to bolster residential security, which has been an issue this year.

UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen said officials are planning to install an "Integrated Security Management System" that will provide the latest in security technology to the campus. Andreen said that while the cost of the new measures would vary from building to building, on average the University will spend $14,000 per dormitory for the upgrades.

"This is state of the art technology that will put us ahead of most other universities because most other universities don't have this technology," said Alicia Browne, assistant director of UA Housing and Residential Communities.

Browne said cameras will be installed outside each residential building to monitor who comes in and out.

"The cameras will be recorded 24 hours a day, seven days a week and will cover exterior doors that are designated as entrances to residence halls," Andreen said.

As to whether the cameras will be at every door to every residence hall or only certain doors, Browne deferred to Michael Kelly of the UA Police Department, who deferred the question to Andreen, who was not able to provide the information by press time.

Most cameras should be installed by fall, Andreen said.

Andreen said the cameras will feed into one site and be recorded, and the UA Police Department would monitor them 24 hours a day.

Also, ACT card swipe machines in place to unlock residence hall doors will be removed and replaced with new technology for the fall, Browne said.

The difference is that instead of scanning the ACTion card, "You will be able to simply hold your ACT card up within a few inches of the scanner, and it will be read," Andreen said.

The new system will be more convenient for students, Andreen said.

New ACTion cards will be required for the new system, and re-carding will be phased in as the new system comes online, she said.

Another security feature planned for next year is technology that will cause an alarm to sound if a door to a residence hall is propped open for a certain amount of time, though Browne said she did not know how long the door would have stay open to trigger the alarm.

"Public safety personnel will investigate door alarms and will respond to the building as needed," Andreen said.

Officials referred questions about the costs of the new security measures to Andreen, who was not able to provide the information by press time.

Browne said a plan for new security has been in the works for a while.

Browne said officials hope the new measures will attract students to the University. Safety is often a main concern for potential students and their parents, she said.

"The new security measures reflect our commitment to providing the best security we possibly can," Browne said.

Students who live in residence halls had various reactions to the changes.

Rachel Beard, a junior majoring in accounting and a resident of Somerville, said she feels pretty safe in her dorm.

"I wouldn't mind security cameras because they are there for your safety," she said. She said she has no privacy concerns regarding the cameras. "You live in the University's dorm, so you have to live by their rules," she said.

Beard said the new ACT card readers will be more convenient.

"There have been times when my hands were full and the slide was hard to do," she said.

Matt Horne, a junior majoring in anthropology and a resident adviser at Riverside West, said he feels safe, but things could be better.

"People prop open the side doors and anyone can walk in from the street," Horne said. "If someone wants to come in the front door, all they have to do is wait from someone else to go in or out and catch the door."

Horne said having an alarm for a propped door should help.

"I don't like if the door is propped open because it's more of an invite to come in than a closed door," he said.

Horne said he has had to deal with a stalker harassing female residents.

"Unfortunately, there will always be an issue with people sneaking in," he said.

Casey Calhoun, a sophomore majoring in biology and a Riverside resident, said security cameras would make her feel safer because the side doors to her building are supposed to be locked but they are not, but she said an alarm for propped doors is not needed.

"It will probably be an annoyance because sometimes I have to prop open the door when I have to bring groceries in," she said.

(C) 2006 The Crimson White via U-WIRE