Creating A Campus-Wide Digital Surveillance Solution

Creating A Campus-wide Digital Surveillance Solution

Texas Tech University has implemented video surveillance solutions throughout their expansive and open campus

At more than 1,800 acres, Texas Tech University is spread out over a wide swath of the central part of the City of Lubbock. There are also numerous entry points on to university grounds on all sides, though there are only a few roads that reach completely from one side of the campus to the other.

Still, maintaining a secure campus over such a wide area with numerous entry points is an ongoing challenge for those charged with the safety and security of the faculty, staff and students at Texas Tech, not to mention the multitude of university visitors and outside workers, delivery drivers and construction employees.

“It is challenging,” said Ronald Phillips, who serves as University Counsel and also is responsible for overseeing campus security and emergency management activities at Texas Tech. “We have a very large campus and it’s a very open campus, and we have a lot of access points to cover.”

In an ongoing effort to improve campus safety and security, Texas Tech has instituted a program to install security cameras at random locations across campus, hopefully to not only deter crime from happening on campus but also to assist the Texas Tech Police Department with investigating and solving crimes that do happen on campus.

“I think there’s a certain practical benefit to the cameras, and a psychological one,” said Lawrence Schovanec, president of Texas Tech University. “People who might have ill intentions hopefully will be deterred by knowing they are under surveillance, and those already on campus might feel more secure knowing that security is there. They are a greater resource to react to any incident that does occur.”


While there were incidents on campus during the fall that would seem, from the outside, to be the catalyst for the addition of security cameras on campus, the initiative for them actually goes back about 18 months.

Texas Tech Police Chief Kyle Bonath said a carjacking on campus showed security officials there was not only a need for new security cameras but a need to update the ones already in existence. Not only were there a plethora of different brands of security cameras throughout campus, there also are different organizations in charge of their maintenance and upkeep.

That led to the organization of the Campus Automated Safety and Security (CASS) committee. Composed of members from the Student Government Association, the President’s office, the Office of Information Technology (IT), plant operations and the police department, the committee was tasked with determining the best method for adding additional cameras and ensuring proper monitoring and upkeep.

“We looked at some different things,” Bonath said. “Buildings were blocked by tree canopies, and lower levels didn’t get us a farenough view.”

Bonath said he looked at another university in the state that had a camera on top of an emergency phone located in a parking lot near the football field, and that got him thinking. Texas Tech has several emergency phones located across campus indicated by a bright blue light on top of the phone’s structure, and the idea became adding cameras on top of these “blue phones.”

“They have, for the most part, the power and all the necessary features we need,” Bonath said. “So we can use the power conduits already there. Then we realized they are about two feet above the structure, and that gives us a good purview under the tree canopies in the spring and summer when the trees are all leaved out. It gives us a good perspective, and there are enough of them at the right height that you aren’t seeing people like ants but you can get some recognition.”

At that point, Bonath said, officials highlighted the areas around campus where cameras were most needed and could give a good view of areas on campus where there is high student foot traffic, bus traffic and where cars most often enter campus.

From there, the plan was developed to begin with four new security cameras placed on random blue phones across campus, with the hopes of adding a total of 20 cameras as the budget allows. The cameras will be hardwired back to a monitoring station where footage will be recorded and archived for 180 days.

“They’re basically 360-degree, 365-daysper- year, 24-7 cameras where we can get a good perspective of what is going on,” Bonath said. “Once we get all the ones we want up, there should be very limited empty spots on campus that aren’t able to be covered by at least one of these cameras.”


Bonath is keenly aware of the perception having security cameras across campus can have with those being monitored, but he wants to assure those on campus that Big Brother is not monitoring them around the clock. That’s why the task of monitoring the cameras will fall on the operations department and not the police department. Operations will be responsible for the day-to-day control of the cameras, ensuring they are operational and focused on the correct section of campus property. If there is an issue with transmission of footage over the hardwired lines, IT will be called in to fix the problem.

If there is an event or safety concern the police need to track, they will then take over monitoring and operation of the cameras. Texas Tech police will be the only department allowed to go and pull archived footage in order to determine if a crime was caught on camera.

“We’re trying to be sensitive to the overall privacy of the students and faculty but also provide the most secure environment,” Bonath said. “It’s a balancing act between public order and privacy.”

Both Bonath and Phillips are confident the addition of the cameras will greatly enhance security and safety on campus, but both acknowledge they are only part of the bigger picture of campus safety.

“That’s an ongoing process, and you never stop evolving and trying to perfect things with changes in technology, changes in automation, all those things that are out there that can be used in some form for public safety,” Bonath said.


Security cameras aren’t the only additions or enhancements Texas Tech has made in campus security.

Phillips said Texas Tech also has increased the number of license-plate readers around campus. Several locations are equipped with license-plate readers to help monitor traffic on campus. Those readers can help police if they need to locate a certain vehicle and see at what point it entered campus.

Building access and security is also being evaluated. Phillips said cameras are being added when new buildings are constructed, and entry through controlled access security is being utilized.

Texas Tech also is updating building alarm systems for fire and weather-related emergencies, with the capability to use a public address system to notify building inhabitants of the need to exit the building in case of a fire or move to secure location within the building in case of severe weather.

This is in addition to the TechAlert system where students, faculty and staff are notified by phone and email of emergency situations on campus. Phillips added that recently Texas Tech officials realized there were others on campus who may not receive TechAlert messages who need to be notified of emergency situations. A process was developed where those individuals could provide their contact information, which was then added to TechAlert.

“We must be diligent in improving security measures and we must continually be improving our physical security across campus,” Phillips said. “We have asked the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to perform a campus security and safety review and they will be looking closely at these things and providing recommendations for improvement. Texas Tech is fortunate in that we have a police department on campus because not all universities do.”

Schovanec said he expects the report from the DPS to suggest Texas Tech take specific actions to continue to improve campus security, some of which may already be planned.

“It’s sort of an evolving process, where you reassess what you have, you look at new challenges and also think of new technologies that you can bear to address those new challenges,” Schovanec said.

This article originally appeared in the June 2018 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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