ASU Hostage Incident Shows Deficiencies of Video Surveillance System

ASU officials had said they were expanding the camera system in the summer of 2014.

Questions about Arizona State University’s (ASU)video surveillance system have emerged as police look for the knife-wielding man responsible for a brief hostage incident on campus Dec. 7.

ASU police have said they have no footage of the suspect inside or outside of the building where he held a professor in her office before releasing her unharmed.

The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. on the third floor of ASU Tempe’s Language and Literature building.

The lack of footage of the suspect may not have drawn so much scrutiny if the school hadn’t dedicated a new office and security position to help expand the campus surveillance system in 2014.

In the summer of that year, ASU Police Chief John Pickens stepped down after a controversial incident involving the arrest of a professor by an ASU officer. Pickens was then named the director of a new University Security Initiatives office and allowed to keep his $155,000 salary.

An examination of the new office by the Phoenix New Times shows that part of Pickens’ stated responsibilities included planning and overseeing the expansion of ASU’s video surveillance system in addition to collaborating with staff to review plans for cameras in the renovated Sun Devil Stadium.

After filing another request for information with ASU, The New Times’ report continued:

But with a full year under Pickens’ belt, ASU can offer no list of his accomplishments, nor any timetable for achieving any of University Security Initiatives’ goals. What’s more, the program doesn’t seem to exist on paper aside from documents showing that Pickens was selected to lead it, and ASU has no record of any budget for the “initiatives.”

RELATED: Former ASU Police Say School Directed Them to Change Crime Stats

In response to the report, ASU Spokesman Gerald Gonzalez pointed to the school’s blue light stations as examples of campus safety and asked the ASU community to notify police if they see any suspicious activity. To assist with reporting, ASU encourages students and faculty members to download the LiveSafe app, which facilitates anonymous reporting to ASU police.

“The safety of the Arizona State University community is something we take very seriously and we continually look for and employ new methods to improve,” ASU said in a statement.

Some faculty members and students also criticized the school for not sending a campus-wide alert to the ASU community following the hostage situation.

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