URBANA — The University of Illinois Police Department’s network of more than 1,000 security cameras around campus has proven successful, and the crime prevention measure has become a staple for investigations.
Starting in 2007, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and UIPD took up the initiative to make the campus safer. Previously, the individual campus units built and maintained their own camera networks, but campus leaders believed a centralized camera system would be a more effective security tool.
This new system aimed to provide security for both interior and exterior campus buildings. The effort was made with dual-purpose; the first to be to deter crime such as theft and assault and the second to help find possible suspects for crime that does occur.
“As technology improved, we needed to improve to better assist our community,” said U. of I. Police Lt. Tom Geis.
Since the installation has occurred, theft rates have been significantly reduced and case closure rates improved. In 2015, officers used the security camera system in 55 cases to obtain evidence. In 36 of those cases, images captured by the cameras were the key elements in identifying suspects. In a 2013 case, security camera images helped UIPD identify and find the suspect in a sexual assault case in less than one hour.
The principles of the policy which governs the use of that network are to enhance the health and safety of the entire university population while protecting campus property.
University officials worked with key stakeholders, including the ACLU, to develop a restrictive policy about how the cameras would be used. Cameras only provide visual data, and audio recordings are prohibited. There is also no live monitoring of cameras, with exceptions during large special events like the Illinois Marathon and football games. Other important information includes:
- Video recordings are utilized for investigative purposes only and may not be used for personnel investigations.
- Video recordings are stored for 30 days, but can be extended up to 120 days if requested for an active investigation.
- The university maintains a log of every person who logs into the video system, views or downloads a video.
Keeping informed of your surroundings and news not only keeps you safe but allows you to be an asset in finding suspects that keep your peers away from harm too. Visit the University of Illinois Police Department’s website for more information about the department and how to stay safe.