Does Millikin need to enhance security?

Denny Patterson, Copy Editor/Writer/Columnist

Increasing cases of vandalism, theft and break-ins has led to a petition calling for more cameras in Millikin parking lots.

“Due to the break-ins, vandalism and even theft of vehicles in the DISC parking lot, the need for higher security measures has become clear.”

That is the first sentence of first year Justin Lilly’s petition to the Student Senate proposing that Millikin should install security cameras around campus to oversee the daily happenings within campus parking lots. Due to costs, effectiveness and limitations, Millikin will not be able to provide cameras, but Director of Safety and Security Chris Ballard intends to improve security function here at Millikin. Installing security cameras would cost over $100,000.

“Cameras have questionable value as a criminal deterrent as they are easily defeated by simple obscuring methods such as a hooded sweatshirt and a ball cap,” Ballard said. “They are limited due to lighting and weather conditions, and it is difficult and expensive to get a large enough “net” to function as requested in the petition.

“Cameras are very useful as an investigative tool [after the fact] to establish time frames and possibly link identified suspects by clothing or description.

“They are also helpful from a risk management perspective in defending liability claims in slip-fall cases for example. Full time monitoring of cameras is very labor intensive and is rarely done outside of specialized applications such as high cash flow areas like casinos or secure areas in shipping or military applications. Often times these systems are very high tech in that they only show active areas to the dedicated monitoring person or persons.”

Within one day, Lilly acquired over 100 signatures with 50 others expressing interest. He believes that the occasional rounds by Safety and Security are not enough to ward off theft and vandalism.

“I started the petition because my best friend’s car was stolen in the DISC lot,” Lilly said.

Later that week, another friend’s car was broken into, keyed and some valuable jewelry was stolen from her vehicle. As a student who also parks on campus, and being friends with the victims of this horrifying theft and vandalism, I knew that something must be done to protect the property of students on campus. If I didn’t at least try and do something, who would? Many students have said that they no longer feel safe parking on campus, or even simply walking to their cars.”

“I think that it was important that the option was looked at,” Student Senate Jacqui Rogers said. “I completely understand Security’s reasoning that it would be too expensive to install security cameras. The fact that Security as well as Decatur Police and Decatur Park District are patrolling the lots more shows that they are attempting to ease the student body’s concerns.”

Safety and Security have shared information with both the Decatur Park Police and Decatur Police regarding the recent burglaries. They are dedicating extra patrol to the areas and the investigations division is reviewing the incidents to see if they could establish a potential suspect list. The recent string of burglaries and theft were happening overnight and every vehicle that was targeted was either already unlocked or valuable possessions were left in plain sight. There has been no indication of forced entry.

“We do not have any suspects identified in these incidents, nor have any arrests been made,” Ballard said. “From my past experience and training, this type of crime is consistent with an inexperienced offender like a juvenile.

“Millikin takes the safety and security of its students, faculty, staff and guests very seriously and strives to provide as safe an environment as is reasonably possible. Like all entities, Millikin cannot assume any liability for the criminal behavior of an individual(s) who would perpetrate a crime like this.”

The On Campus Parking application that students fill out at the beginning of the academic school year states that Millikin University is not responsible for the theft or vandalism of vehicles parked on campus. The institution does not have the money to take responsibility for the several hundred cars parked here on campus.

First year Kyle Shartzer is one of the students who experienced theft. His car was stolen from the DISC parking lot on Feb. 10 and it still has not been located.

“Millikin security is not good enough,” Shartzer said. “There have been many vandalized vehicles and no one was caught or any kind of compensation or justice was done. Security does what it can with what it has, but it does not have enough resources to ensure the safety of all vehicles on campus. Cameras would help, even if they were cheap cameras. At least put some signs up or some form of evidence that says the lot is being watched.”

“I would have thought that there would be at least on camera in the DISC lot because it is the farthest lot from the center of campus,” Lilly said. “I don’t feel that the cameras would have to be extremely top notch to allow students more protection for their cars, and peace of mind. Also, if cameras are 100 percent out of budget, another suggestion was putting up signs that announce the “existence” of cameras, or that ward off criminals in some way. Security has to be upped, and I feel that the students have been “left to fend for ourselves” in this matter.”