Campus police to update surveillance system

Campus police are working to improve security around campus because of an increase in campus parking lot break-ins, a campus police official said.

Steven McGee, chief of TCU Police, said he attended a technology show put on by The American Society for Information Science & Technology in order to preview the most productive surveillance cameras to place on campus.

McGee said he is looking at a system of surveillance cameras for the Police Department that are more consistent in the way they operate and have updated technology.

“Before, if someone had their laptop stolen in the library we would have to watch hours of video,” McGee said. “With this new equipment we can isolate the area where the student was sitting and the program itself will only show footage where there was any sort of movement or activity.”

The cameras currently being used have different operating systems and were put in by different departments, McGee said. This has kept the force from using them most effectively, he said.

But cameras do not prevent car break-ins; students do, McGee said.

“Students cannot leave valuables such as iPods or GPS systems in plain sight,” McGee said. “There have been instances in which thieves have busted in windows just to see what was in a backpack or gym bag.”

McGee said campus police use the cameras that are operating now to monitor suspicious activity in parking lots.

“If we see a car pass up several open parking spots we immediately send out an officer to investigate the activity,” McGee said. “If someone doesn’t take a front row parking spot, they’re probably not there to park.”

McGee said he continues to use alternative methods to catch thieves.

“I’ve placed undercover officers in unmarked tinted cars and on bikes in bushes,” McGee said. “But break-ins have begun to run rampant and are occurring during the morning, afternoon and night.”

The undercover police officers are any extra officers TCU Police has on duty that can sit in their uniforms in unmarked cars, McGee said.

“We’re not Big Brother,” McGee said. “We are simply trying to deter the bad guy and if a potential thief sees someone waiting in their car they are less likely to attempt a break-in.”

McGee said undercover officers have detained people in the process of breaking in and charged them with criminal trespassing.

“We can’t arrest them on theft unless they actually break the window and we would rather save the student the cost of replacing a window,” McGee said.

McGee said another preventive measure taken by campus police is closing all but one entrance into the parking lots.

“If there is only one way in and out, thieves are more likely to find themselves trapped by an undercover officer,” McGee said.

McGee said he posted new officers at certain locations on campus including the Mary Couts Burnett Library and Brown-Lupton University Union because of their late hours.

Chancellor Victor Boschini said funding will never be an issue when it comes to ensuring student’s safety.

“I will do pretty much anything – regardless of cost – if I am convinced it will enhance our safety,” Boschini said. “However, I believe that awareness is the best way to actively protect oneself.”

Boschini said he believes the university is a safe place, especially considering its size, primarily because of good awareness among members of the campus community.

Alyssa Dolny, sophomore education major, said the off-campus crime alerts that students receive via e-mail from Detective Vicki Lawson provide students with the knowledge they need to maintain that awareness.

“I really appreciate the fact that TCU takes the time to provide its students with information that ensures their safety,” Dolny said. “When the occurrences happen close to where I live on campus it impacts me greatly and makes me more conscious of my surroundings.”

McGee said that the cameras should be on campus soon, and until the TCU Police Department finalizes how many cameras will be purchased, the price of the new system is undetermined.