Security cameras located across the Pierce College campus are mostly non-functional, and the lack of surveillance combined with poor lighting in some areas has been blamed for at least one traffic incident.
Though cameras are installed throughout the college, the only working cameras monitored by the Pierce College Sheriff’s Station are those at the farm. Many parts of campus, including the Village and area behind the South Gym, are either dimly lit or lack lighting entirely. Cameras in the Student Store and Freudian Sip are operational but are monitored and managed independently by the store.
“The cameras we do have are not turned on,” said Deputy Al Guerrero of the Pierce College Sheriff’s station. “The ones that do work are the ones on the farm, to watch the cows.”
There have been seven unspecified reports filed with the station since the beginning of the semester, according to Guerrero, and the camera situation has impacted the station’s ability to investigate at least one of those.
Athletic trainer Robert Horowitz recently returned to his car at night after a game and found a scratch on the rear-left of his Dodge Charger. Horowitz suspected another vehicle had hit his car, and contacted the Sheriff’s Station to report the damage. When he asked the station to review the footage from the cameras behind the South Gym, he was told they were not turned on.
“Well I guess I’m out of luck then,” said Horowitz, who chose not to file an incident report after he was told by the Sheriff’s Station that because they hadn’t seen the collision all they could do was assess the level of damage.
Horowitz’s mechanic told him that the vehicle that hit him was a “greenish-blue” SUV. However since no report was filed and no witnesses or footage exist, there is no search for the vehicle or its driver.
“I’m assuming that the person didn’t see my car and backed up,” Horowitz said. “Thank god it wasn’t anything major.”
Though working cameras might have helped authorities identify the car, Horowitz said the incident could have been avoided entirely with improved lighting.
“All of that could have probably been prevented if the lights behind the gym worked,” Horowitz said. “I guarantee if there was more lighting out there, they would probably have had better judgment backing their car out.”
Horowitz’s car was damaged in a parking area designated for faculty and staff, but Guerrero said it could have happened anywhere.
“This happens all over campus. The way these students drive – the driver could have been on their phone, it could have been anything,” Guerrero said. “It’s unfortunate what happened, but it happens quite a bit in the parking lots.”
The only working cameras that feed to the Sheriff’s station are at the farm, but the Student Store operates and monitors its own network of more than 30 throughout the store and the neighboring Freudian Sip according to student store assistant manager Candy Van.
According to Van, the security cameras record inside and around the student store in color but need to be upgraded. She said she would like to see better cameras installed with the latest technology available.
“We need brand new cameras. I’ve seen other campuses and they have new cameras,” Van said. “Are we going to get that? I’m not so sure.”
The importance of up-to-date surveillance was emphasized by Van, who said the store’s cameras have served not only to deter and record potential shoplifters, but have also helped students who have fallen victim to simple forgetfulness. Several years ago, Van recounted, a student lost his cell phone in the student store. Employees used the store’s security cameras and were able to find the phone and return it to the student.
“We found it and we turned it over to the Sheriff’s Station,” Van said. “They took care of it and returned it to the owner.”
Guerrero said the college is continuing to look into a new alternative to the current surveillance system, but did not know when such a system would be chosen, purchased or installed.
“I just know they are looking at systems,” he said. “It’s up to the school.”