Standardizing Campus Security

On March 12, a resolution to standardize the use of closed circuit television, CCTV, equipment was passed by the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees, allowing campus to become “even safer than it already is” according to YSU Police Chief John Beshara.

This resolution gives the YSU Police Department the ability to monitor campus through approximately 500 video cameras scattered throughout buildings while also standardizing responsibility and use of the equipment.

“It offers us a guideline to make sure that the system is being used properly and that it’s being maintained appropriately,” Beshara said. “It’s a very basic and broad policy that regulates and stipulates who does what and what you’re allowed to do with CCTV systems.”

Prior, the CCTV cameras — which were first installed shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — were overseen mainly by the departments in which they are housed.

Harry Meyer, associate director of housing and coordinator of technology, positively commented on the changes.

“Before, there was no set policy stating the exact software that needs to be used for the cameras,” he said. “If a department wanted to go buy certain equipment for their system, they could do that. With the policy, it brings it all together and puts it all under the police’s realm.”

Simply put, Beshara believes the equipment is a “critical component” of the safety plan at YSU that greatly deters crime on campus.

“It’s like putting a cop car in a corner,” he said. “A person driving down the street sees a cop car and just that observance is going to have a deterring effect — same thing with CCT[V] equipment. People know that they are being monitored and that the little area is being videoed.”

The cameras allow the department monitoring staffs and the YSUPD to pull video of crimes for use in solving them. Under the new policy, video recordings are kept for 30 days.

“I make sure [the cameras] are all functioning, viewable and visible for our coordinators so the staff is able to see what they need to see if an incident occurs,” Meyer said. “It’s a fairly simple interface for the staff to use and for the police to use. But it can be a little complex when it comes to maintaining and upgrading the system.”

Currently, the campus’ CCTV equipment is undergoing software upgrades at a cost of approximately $72,000. Steep prices make Beshara cautious when discussing the purchase of additional cameras, although he does favor the idea.

“If there are funds available and we feel we need to increase our CCTV system, certainly we would like to do that,” he said. “However, we have to be careful when we expand — not only of the initial cost, but the ongoing cost.”

Beshara added that, ideally, he would like to see the amount of cameras on campus doubled to more than 1,000. And while Meyer isn’t quite sure what the future holds for security technology, he thinks YSU has “barely scratched the surface.”

“I won’t necessarily say more cameras are needed, but I think upgrading the ones we have to give us a little better viewing option could be necessary,” Meyer said. “The future is whatever we want it to be. The options are unlimited.”