The amount of security cameras with the residence halls at Oswego State is set to increase from about 15 to 90, as the result of an initiative by Residence Life and Housing.
The initiative, part of a project known as phase one, has Residence Life and Housing working with University Police on a plan to install about 75 more cameras over the summer.
Currently, there are five cameras in the tunnel that connects Lakeside Dining Hall to Riggs Hall, four cameras in the tunnel that connects Seneca Hall and Cayuga Hall and another four cameras in the tunnel between Onondaga Hall and Oneida Hall, according to University Police Chief John Rossi.
Director of Residence Life and Housing Richard Kolenda said the initial reason for installing the security cameras was to increase safety and security in the residence halls.
“We were finding that there was a lot of damage in those hallways,” Kolenda said. “In particular on the west end of campus where there was a rash of damage to exit signs. Students were pulling them down and stealing them.”
The destruction of the exit signs was causing the affected residence halls to lose quite a bit of money as a result.
“When the signs are torn down, we have to call emergency maintenance since it’s a safety hazard,” Mitchell White, a second-year RA in Oneida Hall said. “All those calls to have someone come in to fix the signs really added up and took money away from the building.”
This policy of having the residence halls pay for the damages is part of the damage incentive fund set up by Residence Life and Housing to deter students from vandalizing the buildings.
“Each residence hall starts out with a certain amount of money and if the dollar amount of unidentified vandalism doesn’t reach that total, then they get to use that money to buy things for the hall,” Kolenda said.
However, the frequency of vandalism got to a point where a lot of the halls, especially those on west campus, were losing all of their incentive funds.
“I know Oneida actually had negative incentive money because it got so bad,” White said.
Eventually, Residence Life and Housing got the clearance to install the cameras within the residence halls. Since the installation, the amount of vandalism within the halls has decreased dramatically.
“Vandalism has decreased from about a dozen calls a month to one or two a semester,” Rossi said.
Not only are the cameras preventing vandalism, but they are also helping to keep the facilities cleaner, Kolenda said.
“In the past, sometimes students would leave food or throw things, whatever the case may be. Now the locations are a lot cleaner,” Kolenda said.
Additionally, the cameras have led to several students being caught vandalizing property.
“There were two students who were caught damaging the exit signs and also somebody pulling the fire alarm was caught,” Kolenda said.
The process for checking the cameras is a joint operation between University Police and Residence Life and Housing.
“The cameras cycle through two monitors at dispatch,” Rossi said. “They are mainly used for DVR purposes or when an incident is occurring in those areas.”
“If we know the date and time, they will review the tape,” Kolenda said. “Then University Police will decide to investigate who might be the perpetrator and they will locate that person and confront them.”
Bolstered by the results and positive feedback from students, Residence Life and Housing and University Police are currently in the design phase to install additional cameras in all residence halls, including The Village complex.
“The students have been the driving force in this project and with newer technology the costs of equipment and installation is much less now than a few years ago,” Rossi said.
According to Kolenda, the initiative is looking to install the cameras “in all elevators, in all lobbies of the residence halls and out front of the residence halls’ front door area.”
However, Kolenda emphasizes that no cameras will be installed in the more private areas of the residence halls.
“We have no intention of putting them in hallways on the floors… not in lounges or anything in the living area,” Kolenda said.
With positive feedback flowing from students and enough money in the budget, the initiative is on schedule to be finished early in the fall semester, according to Kolenda.