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Smile, You're on Camera


Jesse Otto, senior mass media studies and political science major, was at rugby practice last semester and parked his car in the lot between the soccer and field hockey stadiums for about two hours. When he returned, he found his bumper on the ground and filed a safety report. Once it was filed, a Public Safety officer checked security cameras in the area to try to find who hit his car. Although the person was not caught, Otto felt reassured knowing that Public Safety reviews security camera footage.

150 surveillance cameras are planted around campus in buildings and parking lots, as well as above Hempstead Turnpike. These are used to aid both the campus security and the police when situations on or near the turnpike are investigated.

Reported campus burglaries have doubled from six to 14 between 2011 and 2012, according to the 2013 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. However, the number of reported motor vehicle thefts fell from six to zero between 2011 and 2012.

According to John C. O’Malley, associate director of Public Safety Operations, burglary numbers reflect an increase in thefts from dorm rooms when students leave their doors open and return to find their property missing.

Public Safety is working on implementing more cameras within the campus parking lots.

“We try to install at least a couple a year, depending on what our budget allows,” said O’Malley. The estimated price of a camera is $500.

O’Malley said there are privacy codes that Public Safety must adhere to with the usage of the surveillance cameras. There are no cameras in the locker rooms, restrooms or dormitories, due to the privacy codes. The footage is only reviewed when necessary and depending on the situation and only specific people may view them.

In the case of a reported crime with security cameras in the area, either O’Malley or Karen O’Callaghan, director of Public Safety, review the video footage. The cameras are periodically reviewed by the engineering technician for maintenance.

“They are not like on a TV where someone is sitting there watching them,” said O’Malley. “They are an investigative tool here to benefit the students of the Hofstra community and we certainly don’t look to invade anyone’s privacy.”

Surveillance cameras have always been a debated topic when it comes to privacy. Dr. J Bret Bennington, professor of geology, environment and sustainability, sees that security and privacy need to be compromised.

“Security cameras are both essential and an invasion of privacy, depending on how important you feel security is. The more security you want, the less privacy you can have,” Bennington said. “Increased privacy carries with it less security. Security and privacy are both reasonable expectations people have for their lives, so the trick is finding the right balance of the two.”

Michael Zucker, junior physician’s assistant major, feels safe knowing that there are many cameras around campus and Hempstead Turnpike.

“As long as the cameras are in public forums then I say all the better because it provides better campus security just in case something does go wrong,” said Zucker. “They are trying to protect us.”


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