A warning to the watched, the watching

Last week, Student Senate asked for student input concerning the implementation of security cameras. With the growing amount of thefts on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville campus, security cameras seem like an easy idea worth pursuing. The cameras can aid in keeping students in check and preventing the petty theft and crime occurring on campus.

But the idea should not be approached carelessly. Students and faculty need to be cautious about their lives being taped. Video is dangerous in the wrong hands, and could be used with harmful intention. Great Britain has had many issues with the discriminatory targeting of crime after setting up community security systems, according to the American Civil Liberties Union’s web site. http://www.aclu.org

Security cameras could have a chilling effect on our social campus; knowing that authority figures may be watching can make one exceptionally self-conscious.

“They are [going to] have to be careful how and where they use them,” Student Senate Vice President Jordan Miller said. “There are people hesitant about having them even near the residence dorms because those are essentially people’s homes. And having cameras in homes doesn’t sound like a great idea. But when it comes to academic buildings, parking lots, students seem to be all for (the cameras). There are people, too, who feel it infringes on their freedom as people.”

The security cameras should be located in areas of expensive equipment only, such as the laboratory areas. We should be concerned with preserving the educational materials administration, faculty and students invest time and money in.

“90 percent of places you go now have cameras, especially if it’s a large city (such as) Madison, Milwaukee (or) Dubuque,” Miller said. “Most buildings you go into now have cameras. Most campuses in the UW System have camera systems. I get that people don’t like to be recorded, but I think if it is in the parking lots, sidewalks, academic buildings, it would benefit.”

Miller believes the need for a more secure campus came about after the increasing amounts of theft on campus, “due to a lack of ethics in individuals.”

“Because people see certain actions as okay, we’re going to have these problems,” Miller said.  “The instance last year with Doudna and the music department having equipment stolen was brought to student senate to look into, as well as the Russell Hall thefts of the Macintosh computers.  I mean, there have been sexual assaults, rapes, people being beat right off of campus last year. There have been multiple instances where we need something more (secure).”

If UW-Platteville takes this step towards “security”, securing the footage from ending up in the wrong hands should be a focus in planning for cameras on campus.

“There hasn’t been much talk about [preserving the integrity of the film], but one of the suggestions made was having the judicial body reviewing the cameras,” Miller said. “If there was any evidence that may be on that camera, they would be taken to the governing body, maybe faculty senate.”

Faculty senate would then review the tape, which would be stored on an internet server, for the crimes reported.

“You have to have the faith in the people we hire to protect the campus,” Miller said. “If you don’t believe the people hired have a high level of integrity, then they shouldn’t have been hired.”

Easy to do, but not always so easily practiced. Misuses of security footage are a continuous issue throughout the country. In 1997, a top-ranking police official in Washington, D.C. was caught using police databases to gather information on participants of a gay club.  According to the American Civil Liberties Union’s web site, “by looking up the license plate numbers of cars parked at the club and researching the backgrounds of the vehicles’ owners, he tried to blackmail patrons who were married.”  Imagine what someone like that could do with a campus wide security system.

The main test for how this system will work is the security camera system in Rountree Commons.  However, campus police does not have first line jurisdiction over the footage.

“That’s a completely private building,” Chief of Campus Police Scott Marquardt said. “A privately run, privately managed, privately maintained building. We will look at the video if it is something they bring to our attention. If something happened where we would need to review the video, they would be more than happy to turn that over.”

There is a severe lack of proportion between the benefits and the risks of security implementation on campus. There is no proof that the system is effective; it may just misplace crime instead of eliminate it.