Pitzer Installs Security Cameras to Combat Campus Crime

Over the summer, new security cameras were installed at the entrances to Pitzer College's residence halls as a result of a resolution passed by the Pitzer Student Senate on Dec. 7, 2014. The student-driven resolution was in response to an increasing campus crime rate, particulary surrounding bike thefts and crimes involving individuals not affiliated with the 5Cs entering residence halls.

According to the resolution, which can be found on the Senate's website, the security cameras are not intended for the constant surveillance of Pitzer students, nor do they monitor residence hall corridors or interiors.

Surveillance footage now may only be accessed in the event of a call or claim (a direct alert to Campus Safety) and after approval by the vice president of the relevant department.

“Our policy is that we only go to look at the video footage that's recorded if there are accusations of criminal behavior that happens on our campus,” said Brian Carlisle, vice president of student affairs. “Then we will go look at the recorded video footage, and it's only kept for a short period of time before it's expunged.”

Carlisle attributed some of the crime on campus to the tendency of Pitzer students to hold doors open for others when entering residence halls.

“It's oftentimes people who do not belong at the colleges and certainly not at Pitzer who can enter into a residence hall based on the kindness of one of our students,” Carlisle said.

Historically, Pitzer’s policy regarding surveillance footage has differed from the policies of the other Claremont Colleges. While the other colleges sent their footage directly to Campus Safety, Pitzer withheld its footage from Campus Safety. 

Kyle Dalrymple PZ ’17, a Senate member, said that he was “shocked” by Pitzer's existing policy regarding security cameras. He said that Pitzer's ability to find or follow a known danger on its campus is hindered by its security camera use. 

“Campus safety has no way of tracking where they are on Pitzer's campus because that technology just is not in place,” he said.

In light of the new surveillance cameras on campus, Pitzer enacted a policy stating that no disciplinary action will be taken against “incidental” violations of policy or law noticed in footage that was reviewed for an unrelated claim. For instance, if a video being reviewed for a theft claim shows students engaging in underage drinking, those students will not face disciplinary consequences.

According to Stan Skipworth, director of Campus Safety, the additional cameras are meant to make Campus Safety more aware of what is going on on campus. Skipworth said that the cameras will allow dispatchers to more efficiently identify exactly where an emergency is happening. 

Skipworth added that an improved security camera system “gives us much more ability to respond in a timely way, in an accurate way, not spending a lot of time looking for somebody who may be in distress or for a medical reason.”

Skipworth also belives that abuses of security camera footage are unlikely, saying that, “there's just been a tremendous amount of diligence and real troop professionalism, and I stand by that.”

Security cameras have also been a topic of discussion at Pomona College this fall. In a Sept. 7 email to Pomona students, Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum wrote that the Student Affairs Committee (SAC) will propose a policy regarding the use of security cameras on campus this semester.

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