In addition to present construction on Hill Auditorium, Mason Hall and the Life Sciences Institute, students will see a fair amount of work being done in residence halls over the next two years in efforts to improve security. Department of Public Safety officials presented plans at the University Board of Regents’ June meeting to place video cameras at all entrances of residence halls, as well as install automatic door locks on all rooms and bathrooms.
“Personal safety of our residents is undoubtedly our paramount concern,” Director of Housing Security and Associate DPS Director Ian Steinman said. “We are making a strong effort to work on crime prevention.”
The cameras will face towards the outside and will only be looked at as archival footage after an incident has occurred. The automatic door locks will require students to use their M-Cards to open their room doors and bathrooms. DPS officials and the regents said they want to make sure the new measures are efficient in promoting safety but at the same time don’t violate student’s rights.
“There is always that one balance between one’s privacy and one’s safety,” Regent Olivia Maynard (D-Goodrich) said. “We want to protect the students.”
The new initiatives are a result of a crime wave that raged across campus last term. Between January and May, DPS issued 18 crime alerts for various offenses where a clear suspect description could be given; one of them was later canceled due to suspect apprehension.
Of those incidents, 15 occurred in University Housing facilities and were a mixture of home invasions where a perpetrator unlawfully entered a person’s room, sometimes taking personal items, or “peeping tom” incidents, where residents reported suspects looking at them in the shower.
DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said in March that despite the increased crime, most of it had fortunately not involved any personal danger.
“It is alarming that we have had a number of incidents, but most of these incidents have been against property,” Brown said.
In February, DPS took action by locking the residence halls 24 hours a day and increasing the number of officer patrols inside. But University Housing and DPS officials have repeatedly claimed that campus security is a collaborative effort between officers, students and faculty. They have constantly reminded students to be more careful of their possessions and to take extra precautions such as locking their room doors.
“(DPS) can only go so far particularly in a place that values community responsibility,” Brown said. “(Students are) creating more of a problem for the entire community. In order for the community to be safer, we need people to secure their belongings.”
Some students agree that DPS is doing everything they can and students need to be more responsible.
“Girls should make sure that the door is shut and lock their room when they are sleeping,” LSA junior Erica Irland said.
But others note that more security and better communication is needed between University Housing and students. One problem that arose last winter was the negligence of resident advisors in posting crime alerts in their halls. Brown said that crime alerts usually arrive at residence halls within a day after the respective crime.
“My (resident advisor) doesn’t really ever post anything,” LSA senior Nidhy Sighal said. “We didn’t find out about the new bathroom keys until it happened.”
University Housing officials said they are looking at ways to improve security procedures on campus. While they have looked at practices used on other campuses such as door monitors or sign-in sheets for guests, measures implemented here need to match the needs of students, the University and Ann Arbor.
“You want to use your resources as effectively as possible on your campus,” said Alan Levy, director of public affairs and information for University Housing.