9 Reasons Why Campus Police and IT Should Start Talking

When discussing video surveillance with campus police and IT departments at various schools and universities, I frequently hear an undercurrent of distrust between the two groups.

Campus police sometimes fear both the loss of control and the very technology that could help them become more successful. They also may lack faith in IT departments that may or may not have been effective in the past.

IT, on the other hand, often perceives campus police as old fashioned. Additionally, computer network employees may be too quick to adopt the latest technology and throw out the baby (older, more reliable technology) with the bath water. But there are real benefits when the two groups work together.

1. Shared budgets: Frequently the IT and the campus police departments have different budgets, and neither group has sufficient resources to implement new video surveillance systems. We have seen many situations, however, where IT and campus police have pooled their budgets and successfully funded video surveillance projects.

2. Increased IT resources: Your campus’ IT department may have received grants to improve the network’s infrastructure. Also, many schools and universities are budgeting for high-speed connections between buildings and campuses. Funding for video surveillance can frequently be piggy-backed onto the connectivity budget.

3. Support: Sophisticated surveillance systems need ongoing support, and we all know that even the most reliable systems break down. Unfortunately, campus police are busy ensuring campus safety and usually have no desire to troubleshoot or fix essentially technology problems. IT departments can provide this much needed assistance.

4. Technology is here to stay: Like it or not, technology on campuses is now a fact of life. Schools are constantly exploring the use of technology in instruction as well as communication. It is only logical it will extend to security and law enforcement.

5. Surveillance systems are becoming more sophisticated: Internet protocol (IP) cameras will eventually replace the more traditional analog cameras, and wireless technology and power over Ethernet (PoE) will become more prevalent. These more sophisticated technologies will require the support of the IT department.

6. Many digital video surveillance systems now run on standard PCs: Whereas in the past many digital video surveillance systems ran on proprietary boxes, the modern systems now come bundled on a standard PC such as a Dell with Windows® XP™. They also frequently take advantage of common Microsoft® software such as SQL Server and the Microsoft Web server IIS. The support of PCs is the bread and butter of campus IT departments.

7. Integration with other systems: Today’s campuses must take a holistic approach to school security. Access control systems are becoming increasingly important as part of an overall security plan, and access control integrated with video surveillance frequently makes the most sense. The integration of these systems is almost always the responsibility of the IT department.

8. Convergence of physical and network security: One of the long-range projections by security experts is that physical and network security will merge. This will result in the integration of physical security into an overall security approach, which may include physical access control with access to the campus computer systems. IT departments, perhaps in conjunction with systems integrators will drive this convergence.

9. Shared monitoring: We have seen many campuses where both police and individuals in the IT department regularly monitor surveillance. Obviously, the campus police are the first responders, but IT can alert them to suspicious activities when they are away from the monitoring stations.

By joining forces, campus police and IT each bring their strengths to bear on the very important issue of campus safety. And aren’t better and safer campuses what it’s all about?

James Whitcomb is the chief technology officer of Houston-based VideoInsight Inc., a manufacturer of digital surveillance systems. He can be reached at jwhitcomb@video-insight.com. For more information on VideoInsight, visit www.video-insight.com.

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the September/October 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

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