Cameras watch residence activity

Four surveillance cameras installed in Victoria Hall monitor false fire alarms

The four surveillance cameras in Victoria Hall monitor the main entrance of the building, the Lazy Scholar exit and the E-Wing exit. Victoria Hall is currently the only residence with surveillance cameras.
The four surveillance cameras in Victoria Hall monitor the main entrance of the building, the Lazy Scholar exit and the E-Wing exit. Victoria Hall is currently the only residence with surveillance cameras.

Following an assessment of residence buildings in the fall, it’s possible that Queen’s will install more security cameras on campus.

Victoria Hall, the largest residence building at Queen’s, is currently the only residence monitored with surveillance cameras.

A Campus Security supervisor will be hired to investigate residences this fall and advise the administration on student safety. There is no timeline yet for when the assessment will be finished.

Bruce Griffiths, director of housing and hospitality services, said the installation of cameras was a response to the number of malicious fire alarms reported in Victoria Hall last year.

In 2010 there were 70 fire alarms falsely pulled on campus—the highest annual number recorded to date.

“It was impacting students, their studies and so on,” Griffiths said. “As the alarms continued and got more severe so did our measures.”

After the $1,200 installation of four surveillance cameras early last semester there was a decrease in the number of alarms pulled.

Two of the cameras inside Victoria Hall focus on the main entrance, one on the Lazy Scholar exit and one on the E-Wing exit near Albert St.

After an incident occurs, the tapes from the video feed are reviewed by residence staff in order to identify possible suspects, Griffiths said. In addition to this, staff will ask anyone with pertinent information to come forward and dons will speak to any identified individuals.

He said the cameras don’t pose a privacy issue as they are currently only in public areas.

“There are schools that have chosen to put them in hallways and so on,” Griffiths said. “It’s really about the public spaces at this point.”

Signs on the Victoria Hall doors inform students that surveillance cameras are in place. The monitor showing the camera feed is visible from the main entrance.

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Arig Girgrah worked alongside Griffiths on the installation project.

She said the cameras are now a permanent fixture of the building and that there’s a possibility they’ll be used to investigate other serious yet rare offences, such as vandalism or abuse.

“They provide us with another source of information, so if there was a serious incident then we would look at the tape,” she said, adding that students caught on camera would go through a set discipline process.

The activation of a fire alarm without sufficient reason is considered a level three offence and is managed by Girgrah or Residence Life manager Chauncey Kennedy. It’s the highest offence level, along with six other offences which include weapon possession and trafficking illegal substances.

The video tapes are admissible pieces of evidence in meetings with the University Student Appeals Board.

Girgrah said they didn’t hear from students after the installation in Victoria Hall but that the Main Campus Residence Council (MCRC) was actively engaged in the process. No feedback was asked of the building’s residents.

Last year’s Lower Victoria Hall president Dan Osborne said that MCRC had no official stance on the camera installation.

“Some thought it was a violation of privacy, others thought that it was something that the students had brought upon themselves,” Osborne, ArtSci ’12, said. “Most [students], I don’t think, even noticed.”

Although the number of fire alarms did decrease in late second semester, he said he doesn’t attribute this to the cameras.

“I think it was because it was nearing the end of the year and people had better things to do,” Osborne said, adding that last year shouldn’t be seen as a trend.

“I don’t think the security cameras have any effect on it,” he said. “The fire alarms were never pulled in the lobby; they were pulled in places where there weren’t cameras.”

This article has been changed to reflect the following correction:

The Residence Life manager is Chauncey Kennedy. In the July 26 issue of the Journal, Robert Holliday was incorrectly listed as the Residence Life manager.

The Journal regrets the error.

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