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More than 200 cameras installed in residence halls to increase campus security

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Spencer Residence Hall has signs posted outside of the building noting the presence of CCTV surveillance monitoring.

Approximately 270 security cameras were installed this summer in residence halls across campus.

The University installed the cameras to enhance security by recording individuals as they enter the buildings, but the cameras will not typically be monitored in real time. They are situated strategically to film any exterior doors.

“We don't want to create a state of mind that we're constantly worried about something happening, but at the same time, we want to make great decisions about security,” Brian James, the chief of UNC Police, said.

Executive Director of Carolina Housing Allan Blattner said the installation of the cameras began on May 15, starting with residence halls that housed summer school students.

The planning of the project began late last fall, and a contractor was hired by late spring. Blattner said the project cost over $750,000 for the initial installations.

James said UNC Police will only access footage from the cameras following a reported crime or during an investigation.

“We want you to feel more secure, we want to deter crime, but then also — if we do have a crime reported at a residence hall — we want to have the best opportunity to identify that person and hold them accountable,” James said.

UNC first-year MJ DiFiore said he thinks the cameras are a step in the right direction toward achieving a balance of privacy and safety.

“I think that’s a smart idea, given what happened on Monday — a week ago now,” he said. “Unfortunately, there's uncertainty in the world and I think it's smart, especially where you have residents, to have your entrances covered.”

Martha Plaehn, a sophomore on-campus resident, said she was unaware that cameras had been installed. 

“I do think it’s important that students know if they’re being filmed and I’m not sure if I feel like that’s been adequately communicated,” she said. 

Plaehn also said she feels privileged to not have had any dangerous encounters during her time living in residence halls, but that she thinks the cameras could be a helpful resource in emergency situations. 

Blattner said Carolina Housing surveys residents every year and consistently receives positive reports of safety in rooms and buildings.

“That's wonderful for all kinds of really good reasons,” Blattner said. “But it also can sometimes make people not as conscious of the small things that they can do to help keep themselves safe and their community safe.” 

​​He also said the hope is that the cameras will serve as another barrier for non-University-affiliated people to enter residential buildings.

James said students living in residence halls should be cognizant that UNC is an open campus and take small precautions to ensure the safety of their community — such as not allowing unknown individuals to come in behind them after unlocking a residence hall's exterior door.

“The cameras are not a secret,” James said. “We want you to know that they’re there — and people that have ill intentions — we want them to know that the cameras are there.” 

Blattner said there is a list of frequently asked questions available on the Carolina Housing website that they will continue to build upon as they receive more questions about the new cameras.

“If students have questions that are making them think that this wasn't a good idea, or are being done for alternative purposes, we'd be happy to try and address those,” he said. 

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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