Campus cameras keep an eye on crime

By Dave Benton |

Published 11/05 2013 11:56AM

Updated 11/07 2013 10:36AM

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- The UI has reached a milestone in beefing up security. Police are now using more than 1,000 security cameras on campus. And, it's just the beginning. Find out who's watching and if it's paying off.

Another day at the University of Illinois. Students in campus-town or heading to class. It's all happening under the watchful eye of a camera.

"I think it's been a huge success."

Detective Tim Hetrick says 1,020 have been installed the past five years. They record 24/7 and replace a system which was ineffective and tough to use.

"I can't say that we're leading the pack, by any means. We're also nowhere close to being at the rear of the pack, like we were a few years ago."

But, it's a change some students haven't noticed.

"I don't think about it."

"Really didn't know there were a thousand cameras up actually."

In the two years after cameras were put up here inside the undergrad library, theft was cut in half. And that success has been seen campus-wide.

There were 28 crimes in the last school year where video was available. That footage helped solve half those cases and provided evidence in six more.

Among them, an attempted sexual assault. The suspect, caught on camera, dragging the victim out of her dorm. An officer recognized the man. He was arrested an hour later.

"As the public becomes aware we're making arrests because of video, I think they're going to be less likely to come on campus for fear of video when they commit a crime."

But, the cameras only cover ten percent of campus and many crimes don't happen in front of one. So, police want to add more with greater focus Champaign and Urbana, giving the university a better look at who's coming and going.

Plus, eventually, officers would like to see the video feed inside their squad cars.

"We're evaluating where crime occurs and crime patterns to identify where our priority should be when locating cameras."

So far, students don't seem to mind the extra eyes watching.

"I don't even feel like I'm being watched by big brother or anything like that. I think they're there for a good reason."

"I only think about them or notice them at night when I'm walking around. It's kind of an extra security precaution, I think."

Police say no one is sitting in a room watching the cameras all the time, although someone is assigned to them during special events like a football game or Unofficial St. Patrick's Day, when a lot of people gather in one spot.

The university has spent $1,009,000 on cameras in the past five years. 

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