Smile. You’re on camera.
Right now, Seattle University has about 65 security cameras located throughout campus. Most of them are external, monitoring entrances and exits. Others are located inside buildings such as the Murphy garage or the library.
In the near future, more cameras will be installed to ensure that all necessary areas of the campus are covered. The monitors for these cameras are accessible to Public Safety officers as well as 911-certified dispatchers, though the cameras are not actively monitored.
“It is generally more of an after-the-fact kind of thing,” said Public Safety and Transportation Executive Director Timothy Marron. “Dispatchers will look in their spare time but they are usually busy. Having the cameras is like the same as having someone out on patrol.”
The cameras have managed to capture some criminal activity on campus. For example, the Murphy garage has played host to more bicycle thefts which has led to an increase in monitoring in that area.
Although the purpose of the cameras is to track criminal behavior, the thought of being watched is not very comforting to many people on campus.
“I don’t like the idea of being watched, even if it is for security,” said freshman Sebastian Pronin. Fellow freshman, Karling Rutenbeck, agreed.
“I definitely see the benefits of having cameras since we live in a city environment,” Rutenbeck said. “But at the same time it can create a sense of insecurity when you know there are cameras around. The Public Safety presence is already really strong so the cameras kind of seem unnecessary.”
Although having security cameras around campus may not be appealing to everyone, the main focus is the student body’s safety. The cameras are only used to spot criminal activity. Aside from the cameras, Public Safety has made a lot of efforts to improve safety on campus.
“One important thing to note is that the Department of Public Safety is not an enforcement agency for the law or conduct; we are here to provide a safe environment,” Marron said. “We are the first responders to emergencies and will facilitate a response. We are a source of help.”
One thing that was done to combat the enforcement image was a change of uniform. This year, they switched from the blue, police-like uniforms to red uniforms with a badge that reads “Cura Personalis” meaning care for the entire person.
“Public Safety has a lot of nice people,” Pronin said. “It feels good to know that if you need them, they are there.”
In the future, Public Safety will be looking to do even more.
“We have been understaffed for a lot of years,” Marron said. “The administration recognized that and rectified it. By the summer we will be able to hire more positions.”
Next year, there will be eight or nine officers on patrol at night to provide better coverage of the campus. There is also an agreement with the Seattle Police Department in the works that would provide a police car to patrol the area at night; however, those details are still being worked through.
“I think between those two improvements, it will make a huge difference about how safe students feel on campus and the ability of the university to deter criminal activity,” Marron said.
Public Safety is also in the middle of negotiations to expand the Night Hawk program. The Night Hawk is a free service to students that can have a car drive them to or from campus up to six blocks away. The department is hoping to not only have more cars ,but to also replace the current models with Nissan’s electric cars in order to support Seattle U’s goal of sustainability.
Overall, Public Safety aims to provide a better service to the student body with a safer campus.
“I have had a positive experience with Public Safety,” said Rutenbeck. “It makes me feel better to know that they are there.”