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Scott Strasser

Campus Security to increase CCTV surveillance

By Scott Strasser, July 12 2016 —

Campus Security will get more help from Big Brother this year, with plans to significantly increase the number of surveillance cameras at the University of Calgary by the fall.

The U of C currently uses around 300 closed-circuit television cameras, with that number expected to increase to around 500 by September.

But that’s a far cry from the 82 surveillance cameras at the U of C this time last year, says chief of Campus Security Brian Sembo.

“A year ago, there were significantly fewer CCTV cameras on campus,” Sembo said. “That number has increased quite a bit with the introduction of the new security operations centre and the technologies that went with it.”

According to Sembo, similarly-sized universities can have anywhere from 3,500 to 9,000 cameras.

“It sounds like a lot that we went from 80 to 500, but in fact, we’re just now playing some catch up,” Sembo said.

Most of the new cameras will be set up in new buildings at the U of C, such as the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning and the rebuilt Schulich School of Engineering, scheduled to be completed this fall.

Cameras will also be put in areas that previously did not have much surveillance, such as the Olympic Oval and the Kinesiology complex.

Sembo said CCTV can act as a deterrent for theft — something that spiked at the U of C earlier this year.

“Places like the bookstore, we’re certainly getting anecdotally good reports about the deterrence factor of having those additional cameras in those areas,” he said.

Surveillance cameras at the U of C were useful in late May, when Campus Security identified Alexander Louis Harsanyi and Monica Rebalski — two suspects of a large string of credit card thefts — through reviewing CCTV footage.

“The capture of those folks for those thefts was directly attributed to that new CCTV system we installed. We’re having a lot of success with that new technology,” Sembo said.

Manager of community operations Rick Gysen said CCTV is a useful tool for Campus Security.

“It doesn’t replace boots on the ground, but it’s an extra tool — certainly on the forensic side of things,” he said. “When something does get reported, we can go back to recordings and identify.”

The U of C started their CCTV surveillance program 18 years ago, with 12 cameras. Gysen said the U of C was an early trendsetter in camera surveillance at Canadian universities, but stalled for several years.

“We sat at 80 cameras for many years, and it was old analogue equipment and the imaging was terrible,” Gysen said. “It was a recognized area of risk that we need to address this and bring us into the 21st century and take advantage of the technology that’s so readily available.”

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