Number of security cameras on NDSU campus remains a secret
FARGO - The number of security cameras on campus is public knowledge at Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College in Moorhead. The same goes for the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota. But the number of cam...
FARGO – The number of security cameras on campus is public knowledge at Minnesota State University Moorhead and Concordia College in Moorhead. The same goes for the University of North Dakota and the University of Minnesota.
But the number of cameras watching over North Dakota State University is a closely guarded secret.
“One of NDSU’s security strategies is to avoid publicizing specifics about the surveillance system. This helps prevent identification of the system’s strengths or weaknesses,” NDSU spokeswoman Anne Robinson-Paul said in an email.
In recent weeks, NDSU denied The Forum’s open-record requests seeking the number of cameras, as well as their locations. In doing so, the school cited a state law that gives a public entity the choice to withhold the plans for its security system.
Security at NDSU has come into focus after the homicide of freshman Thomas Bearson, a nursing student from Sartell, Minn., who lived at Reed Hall. What role, if any, on-campus security cameras could have had in preventing or investigating Bearson’s death is unclear given that authorities say he was last seen alive Sept. 20 at a house south of campus in Fargo, and his body was found three days later in the lot of an RV dealership in south Moorhead. His killer remains at large.
Ray Boyer, NDSU’s head of security, said he’s comfortable with the strength of the school’s camera system, which is monitored 24/7 at the university police department’s call center. Boyer declined to say whether NDSU plans to install more cameras, a trend seen at other colleges in the region.
“We have put all of this in that realm of information that we are not going to be talking about,” he said. “It’s just the real world we live in that necessitates that we operate in this fashion.”
Boyer said the secrecy about the security cameras stems from a fear that someone would use knowledge about the cameras to cause harm on campus. “Criminal elements have a way of working systems to their benefit so they don’t get caught,” he said.
In Grand Forks, UND officials have a more transparent approach to talking about the school’s 150 security cameras.
“Of course, we’re not going to tell people the exact locations of our camera systems,” UND Police Chief Eric Plummer said. “But we do want people to know general locations, so we want people to know that we do monitor certain buildings, entrances, exits.”
Plummer said UND is seeking funding to install 250 more cameras. He said the school sees a need to add cameras in parking lots to deter thefts and to create a sense of security.
“When we do install these camera systems in public parking lots … we want people to have that knowledge so that they can at least have a little bit of confidence when they do park in one of our lots,” he said.
Elsewhere in the region, the University of Minnesota recently added 16 security cameras to the 1,600 already on campus. Concordia has 80 cameras after adding about a dozen in the past year. And Minnesota State University Moorhead has 109 cameras, plus 23 that have been installed and will soon be brought online.
Despite NDSU’s reluctance to discuss its security cameras, some information has been made public.
In February, the student newspaper reported that Memorial Union’s security camera system had failed and that most of the building had been without working cameras for almost two years. At that time, a school official said there were plans to install 55 to 60 new cameras throughout the building by the end of this year.
Boyer told The Forum that work on that project continues.