$1.5 million upgrade to the Monroe Park Campus’ video surveillance system is underway and expected to be completed by the end of the semester.
The upgrade to the surveillance system has been in works since May 2013, said Michael Kelly, a spokesperson for the VCU Police Department. The old cameras will be replaced with high definition ones that allow VCU PD to access and search images more easily. A similar project exists for the medical campus, but planning is ongoing.
“The old (system) was extremely outdated to the point where it wasn’t helpful in investigations…the new system is just a better quality upgrade that gives us better information we can use to help keep campus safe,” Kelly said.
VCU has had a video surveillance system for the last 12 years that covers public spaces on and around campus, said VCU poilce chief John Venuti.
“We’ve made it virtually impossible to come onto this campus and leave without having your image captured somewhere,” Venuti said.
Kelly would not say how many cameras are on campus or where they are located for “tactical reasons.” Venuti said the project does not involve adding additional cameras and that the system is not actively monitored.
“We’re not doing anything today that we weren’t doing yesterday or last year. It’s little to no impact on students. … We’re just using better, more modern technology,” Venuti said.
Though the cameras are meant to keep students safe, reaction to the upgrade is mixed.
Freshman Colin Jennings said video surveillance on campus makes him feel safer, especially as an out-of- state student who’s unfamiliar with Richmond.
“I’m from New York. I was told to watch my back around here,” he said. “It doesn’t really concern me because I’m not going to be doing anything bad on campus … I’d rather there be video cameras if that means I have to be careful about what I do too.”
On the other hand, a junior, who preferred to go unnamed, said the heavy usage of cameras on campus makes him feel uneasy and distrusting of the police department’s intentions.
“If I’m walking around I don’t want to be on video camera … it makes me nervous seeing stuff like that all over the place,” he said.
The new cameras have come in handy, though.
VCU PD has solved several crimes that have occurred since the beginning of the school year, including a commercial robbery at the BP gas station at Grace and Belvidere streets, theft of a motor scooter, two larcenies of smart phones, and the theft of valuable copper piping while Johnson Hall was under renovation.
Venuti said the new surveillance system will help keep students safe.
“I think that the upgrades to the camera system are just another piece of evidence that shows that the administration is fully engaged in making this one of the safest college campuses in the United States, and we’re all fortunate for that.” Venuti said.