At 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, Alex Levin ’12 was woken up by a Public Safety officer knocking on his door. Levin’s car, parked in the Vine Street parking lot, had been broken into several hours earlier. The back window had been smashed and over $1,000 of his belongings had been stolen. A metal pole, which was found on the ground several feet from the car, is suspected to have caused the damage.
“It had to be to be really loud because they totally smashed out the window,” Levin said. “I’m surprised no one noticed it. Had there been surveillance cameras, at least we could have an idea of who did it.”
Levin’s car is one of several that have been burglarized over the last few weeks. Despite the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s (WSA) approval of camera installation last summer, there are currently no surveillance cameras monitoring the Vine Street parking lot.
Any permanent cameras that are installed on campus must be approved by the Student Life Committee (SLC), a subcommittee of the WSA’s Student Affairs Committee (SAC).
In the spring of 2008, the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC), a subcommittee of the SAC, established the Wesleyan University Camera Policy to regulate the use of surveillance cameras for safety and security purposes. The code states that the sole purpose of video camera surveillance is to deter crime and to aid PSafe and the police in maintaining campus safety, security, and property.
Despite concern from students that cameras would be used to implicate students for drinking violations, the Cameras Policy specifically states that surveillance cameras are not to be used for the enforcement of minor infractions of the Code of Non-Academic Conduct, such as alcohol violations, without permission from the Vice President of Student Affairs. This provision was agreed upon by PSafe and PSAC.
“We have been working with the WSA because there are student concerns over what we’re using the cameras for,” said Dave Meyer, Director of Public Safety. “What the camera policy agrees to is that we would not normally use [cameras] for minor violations of the Code [of Non-Academic Conduct].”
Over the summer, available members of the SLC convened to approve PSafe’s proposal for the installation of surveillance cameras for the Vine Street parking lot, as well as for the Long Lane Physical Plant offices.
In the fall, PSafe informed the SLC that the installation of the Vine Street cameras had been temporarily delayed. However, due to a reduction in available funds, the project was never completed.
“Due to the financial climate, extra projects were put on hold for the time being until things could be resolved,” Meyer said.
According to Vice President for Finance and Administration John Meerts, the Vine Street camera project, among others, was halted due to the general decline in the economy and a need to preserve existing funds.
“Many projects were delayed/postponed because of this, and some were completely eliminated,” Meerts wrote in an e-mail to the Argus. “We will do the Vine Street cameras and other projects as the economy improves and the university endowment (and therefore its financial condition) improve.”
Due to the smaller scale of camera installation for the Physical Plant offices, that project was successfully completed. The absence of cameras in the Vine Street parking lot, however, has led to frustration among several individuals who claim that the lot, which is mainly reserved for cars belonging to first year students, presents several safety issues due to its relative isolation from the campus.
“There were perfectly good reasons to install the cameras. Vine Street really needed it,” said Becky Weiss ’10, Chair of the Student Affairs Committee. “I can’t believe that the installation is something that got put on hold for financial considerations. When it comes to student safety that has to be a priority over budget.”
According to Meyer, it is generally more cost effective to install surveillance cameras when there is already a major project going on. Because the Vine Street lot is not currently under any renovation or construction, installing the cameras presents a higher cost. Nevertheless, the installation will be completed as soon as there is available funding.
“We all know it’s been a tough financial year,” Meyer said. “Installing surveillance cameras in the Vine Street parking lot is definitely our next project, as soon as we can find some financial support.”
Surveillance cameras were first installed on campus in spring of 2008 to monitor the High Rise and Low Rise Apartments, which were previously considered problematic areas of campus. Cameras were also installed around the perimeter of the PSafe building and in the Exley Science Center lobby, which is open 24 hours a day. According to Meyer, the presence of cameras in these locations has been successful in deterring crime.
“We’ve seen a reduction in incidents around the High Rise and Low Rise Apartments since the cameras were installed,” Meyer said.