Overnight Guards Replaced by CCTV Surveillance

JINWOO CHONG/THE HOYA Guards will no longer monitor dorms overnight in an effort to re-appropiate funds toward security maintenance.

JINWOO CHONG/THE HOYA
Guards will no longer monitor dorms overnight in an effort to re-appropiate funds toward security maintenance.

Security guards will no longer monitor dorms overnight, in an effort by the Georgetown University Policy Department and the Office of Residential Living to re-appropriate funds toward closed-circuit TV camera maintenance and other security expenses.

Security guards will now monitor dormitories from a new Security Operations Center —located in the Mezzanine Level of the Southwest Quad Parking Garage—between 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. seven nights a week via live feeds from security cameras located in dormitory lobbies, entrances and hallways.

In previous years, Allied Barton security personnel have checked GOCards in residence halls from midnight to 8:00 a.m., at which point student guards took over and worked in shifts throughout the day.

Currently, there are two specially trained Allied Barton personnel monitoring the cameras during the night hours.

GUPD Chief Jay Gruber said the guards underwent an intensive weeklong course at the University of Maryland during which they specialized in examining live feeds effectively and identifying suspicious behavior.

“We’re training these officers to work both reactively and proactively,” Gruber said. “So if they see someone looking around the lobby who isn’t really going anywhere, they’ll call down from the Security Operations Center, and we will respond.”

Security guards on shift in the Security Operations Center are required to submit updates on what they have observed every 15 minutes to ensure that the halls are continually supervised.

Gruber said he hopes to use the money saved from staffing overnight shifts to fund security system maintenance. Gruber could not specify the amount of money saved as of 2:30 a.m..

“When cameras died in the past, I had to go shop around and find somebody to give me money for it, which often took months or years,” Gruber said. “I’ve made the investment, and now I can’t just let that investment dry up. I have to make sure everything is working properly.”

Some of the funds will also be directed to the Security Operations Center, which Gruber hopes to eventually staff more heavily and run 24 hours a day.

The student guard program will remain unchanged for the 2016-17 academic year, according to Gruber. However, he expressed interest in eventually expanding the role of student guards: for example, having them monitor cameras during the day.

The Office of Residential Living and GUPD also installed cameras in and around every residence hall, primarily in lobbies and doorways, as well as alarm systems sensitive to the activity of residence hall perimeter doors. Newer residence halls, such as Ryan and Freedom Halls and Pedro Arrupe, S.J. Hall, have cameras mounted at every entry and exit, and, if a door is held or propped open for too long, the department receives a notification and can send a police officer to investigate.

Furthermore, every residence hall, with the exceptions of Copley Hall and LXR Hall, is now equipped with a double barrier system that requires students and other authorized personnel to swipe their GOCards twice: first to enter the building, and once again to access elevators or stairways.

This system is likely to be implemented in LXR by the end of the semester, but security officers will continue checking GOCards in the lobby throughout the night due to its off-campus location, according to Gruber.

Additionally, Gruber said access to residence halls during the day has been limited to students, police officers, Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Services, facilities personnel, chaplains and faculty-in-residence.

Gruber emphasized the importance of student involvement in campus security, especially in closing doors behind them at night to prevent unknown individuals from following students into residence halls without using GOCards, a process known as tailgating. He said students should use the LiveSafe app to notify the police department if someone tries to tailgate into a building or exhibits suspicious behavior.

“We really count on our students to take a stake in their own security and use common sense,” Gruber said. “You have to think of the residence hall as your home. Would you let somebody into your house or your apartment building who you didn’t know?”

Marcos Morales (COL ’19) said he was concerned that a lack of an authority figure who could stop students who appear to be drunk from going back to a dorm room together could be dangerous.

“I’m worried that it’s getting rid of a potential way to prevent sexual assault,” Morales said.
Alexandra Williams (SFS ’19) said the university should continue to make student safety a priority, taking advantage of both video cameras and overnight guards.

“Tuition increases should mean more money is going towards practicalities,” Williams said. “If the department sees the benefit in adding cameras, then they should employ both methods of security.”

However, Will Davis (COL ’19) said he doubts the change will greatly affect students.

“It’s basically impossible to access campus dorms without a GOCard in the first place,” Davis said. “And I’ve seen plenty of guards asleep at the desk at 4:00 in the morning, so I’m not sure how much of a difference this will make.”

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