Wayne State University and Their Massive Video Surveillance Network

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Detroit, Michigan is home to one of the most surveilled college campuses in the entire country: Wayne State University has an astounding 850 surveillance video cameras currently operating. And the man on the other side of the cameras is quite proud of that fact.

“Anywhere on campus, if you look up, I can see you,” says Wayne State University Police Chief Anthony Holt.

The cameras are scattered all across the campus: On top of academic buildings, dorms, traffic lights, recreation centers and light poles. However, of the 380 cameras that are outdoors, most are stationary and cannot be controlled by a dispatcher. But the remaining 450+ cameras are all fully controllable, with a majority of them being high-definition, which enables Chief Holt to “zoom in pretty good.” Additionally, there are more than 20 Detroit Police Department surveillance cameras that were originally installed for the 2006 Super Bowl, and then sat idle for years afterwards until Holt was able to get an OK from the Detroit PD to have the feeds diverted to his dispatch center. All in all, the system cost roughly $3 million, and Holt hopes to soon integrate facial recognition software “once we get the money,” he says.

For those students concerned about their rights to privacy when security personnel get the urge to view students through their dorm windows, Mr. Holt reassures them that his people aren’t allowed to do that.

“There is a privacy issue; we can not look into a dorm window,” Holt said.

The vast network of cameras can also be used for more than just observing the Wayne State campus. On several occasions, Chief Holt says the university’s surveillance system has been instrumental in helping the Detroit police with various matters. In one instance, Holt helped police locate a suicidal man who was threatening to jump from the top of a building some two miles away from the campus (the man was later rescued). Chief Holt is even able to capture screenshots on any one of the cameras and instantaneously send them to patrolling squad cars. And students on the campus can also utilize what’s called “safe walks,” where they can call in and actually request to be monitored on one of the countless cameras as they walk home or between buildings.

“We do a lot of service, not just crime fighting,” Chief Holt says.

As surveillance video and audio recording devices continue to pop up all over the country, don’t be surprised to see other college campuses follow in Wayne State’s footsteps. Just last month, the University of Kentucky announced that it plans to install 2000 video surveillance cameras on campus!

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