Queen’s may expand campus surveillance

Review could lead to more cameras

David Patterson, Campus Security director, says security is everyone’s responsibility.
David Patterson, Campus Security director, says security is everyone’s responsibility.

The University may get more closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in indoor and outdoor locations across campus as the result of a review of campus security.

Right now, there are cameras at six locations across campus.

Andrew Simpson, vice-principal (operations and finance), said the University is assessing its options, but hasn’t reached a decision at this point.

“Given the severity of some of the attacks on students around Canada, we need to look at all options,” he said.

Campus Security is in discussion with Simpson and Associate Vice-Principal Ann Browne about enhancing existing CCTV technology and future installation opportunities on campus.

“There would have to be a review done about how expensive installations would be and what systems would be installed,” Campus Security Director Dave Patterson said.

“What we’re doing is we’re just gathering the information—taking a look at where the appropriate areas for installation would be.”

He said the ultimate decision would be up to Principal Karen Hitchcock, Simpson and key members of the University community. Currently, the University’s CCTV systems monitor interior areas, but Patterson said they’re looking at external system monitoring, covering more public areas such as pathways and traffic points.

Patterson said Campus Security constantly reviews the level of security infrastructure at Queen’s.

This review comes after shootings at Dawson College in Montreal and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

“A multi-faceted approach to campus safety is paramount,” Patterson said. “CCTV is just one layer that we are reviewing.”

Patterson said CCTV is used on campus in specific areas that have experienced a high number of thefts in the past.

“This technology assists in preventing and deterring crime,” Patterson said.

CCTV systems have been in place on campus for at least five years, he said. Individual departments are responsible for systems and system management.

“They look after the installation … and then those systems are reviewed to ensure they follow the best practices with privacy guidelines,” Patterson said. “They must show that those systems are being used in a professional and ethical manner.”

Diane Kelly, access and privacy co-ordinator, said there are cameras in the Campus Bookstore, Botterell Hall, Goodes Hall, Duncan McArthur Hall, the IT Services Department in Dupuis Hall and in the underground parking lot across from Kingston General Hospital.

She said there are signs notifying students if there are cameras in an area.

“If you go into McArthur … there’ll be signage saying the lobby area is monitored with cameras,” Kelly said. “That would be the same in any of the buildings where there are cameras.”

There are two kinds of surveillance cameras, Kelly said—­those that are monitored, and those that merely take recordings. The cameras on campus aren’t monitored, and their footage is only used if an incident occurs.

“If you look at some of the very big, modern apartment houses in Toronto, for example, you might have a guard who monitors a camera 24 hours a day—we don’t have any system like that at all,” Kelly said.

Footage from the cameras is only stored for five days to comply with privacy legislation.

Kelly has met with the individual departments who control the CCTV systems to discuss privacy concerns.

Patterson said along with privacy guidelines, a proper records management system is required for CCTV video recordings.

“These systems aren’t monitored, they’re just recorded,” he said. “If something was to happen like a theft, they would review the systems and they would pass over the information to our department,” he said, adding that the information would in turn be given to Kingston police for criminal investigation.

John Traverse, ITS business manager, said there was an incident about a year ago involving a laptop theft at ITS, but the police said the video recording couldn’t be used in court because it did not give a clear enough image of the thief.

Traverse said ITS has had a camera system in place for about three years.

“Obviously the computer store is a prime site for potential thieves,” he said.

Traverse said the system at ITS doesn’t cost anything to run. The cameras read activity and record to a DVD player.

“It’s just a camera; it’s not the greatest in the world … there are certain camera angles and it just records what’s it its sight,” Traverse said, adding that the cameras are primarily designed to cover entrances.

He said the system wasn’t terribly expensive to install—between $4,000 and $5,000.

“It’s as much about deterrence as anything,” Traverse said, adding that if you’re looking for the cameras, they’re easy to spot.

Simpson said until he sees a proposal for a campus-wide security system, he has no sense of how affordable it would be.

“I would presume if it’s just a few video cameras that the operating costs, presumably, are minimal,” he said.

“I think it’s one option of many options that we should look at,”

Patterson said Campus Security also needs to ensure that additional surveillance equipment will work with existing technology at the University.

“We would want to ensure a CCTV management platform could be integrated into current systems,” he said.

Patterson said there are a variety of systems available.

“It would all depend on what type of system you identified as most appropriate,” he said.

“As with anything, if we were to move forward on something like that, it would be over a budget schedule.”

Campus-wide video surveillance would augment the University’s existing safety services, such as foot patrols, vehicle patrols, emergency blue light phones, and campus lighting, Patterson said.

“It just adds to the multilayered approach we have for campus safety.”

Kelly said there’s no reason to install surveillance cameras campus-wide.

“The Privacy Commissioner would say that you only should install surveillance cameras if there is evidence of some kind of risk and, just as importantly, if the surveillance cameras will minimize the risk,” she said.

She said there’s clear justification for having cameras in the underground parking lot, for example, where there are concerns about theft and about strange people wandering around.

When you consider people’s privacy rights, she said, there is no justification for campus-wide video surveillance at this stage, despite recent security-related incidents at other universities and colleges.

Kelly stressed the importance of a balance between security and privacy, and taking the steps you need to take.

“It’s our view that if there’s an incident, we’ll know about it and we’ll review our tapes and see what the footage holds.”

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