The University installed nearly $60,000 worth of surveillance equipment in Ivory Tower last week, after University Police were unable to nab the culprits behind the series of vandalism cases that have plagued the residence hall this year.
Thirty-six new surveillance cameras will be used to catch – as well as deter – people from vandalizing the six-year-old residence hall, Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell said.
Finding witnesses to identify vandals has proven difficult, Darnell said, prompting the need for the cameras to be spread throughout the building’s 10 floors. The University will also use the footage to prosecute those who cause the damage, he said.
Vandalism has cost the University thousands of dollars in repairs and cleanup costs over the past year. Darnell did not return request for comment over the weekend on the total cost, but about $3,000 worth of damage occurred between the start of the semester and Oct. 11.
“I hope [the cameras] will have a deterrent effect,” Darnell said.
Vandalism cases spiked in September, with four incidents of vandalism reported by UPD during one week. The cases included broken ceiling tiles and trash-littered hallways, leading GW Housing Programs staff to send e-mails to Ivory Tower residents warning them to stop the destruction and seeking witnesses to the incidents.
Since Sept. 1 there have been 25 cases categorized as “destruction” in Ivory Tower, according to GW’s police records. During the same time period last year, there were 10 destruction cases in the building.
In October, an unauthorized e-mail was sent to more than 7,000 students saying students would have to pay for any damage to common areas of residence halls. University officials said there wasn’t a change in policy, and that the e-mail resulted from an error in communication.
UPD Chief Kevin Hay said he is “confident that CCTV cameras placed in public areas around campus can help reduce crime.”
He said it’s “unfortunate that the University has to spend money on this type of thing rather than on other needs,” but said the “distinct increase in vandalism cases” in the building made the cameras necessary.
A security team comprising UPD, housing and Facilities Management looked into putting cameras in the building, in addition to the 30 cameras already in common areas of the residence hall and food court, Darnell said.
He said the University will continue to assess the need for security cameras across campus, but didn’t name any specific locations.
Ian Higham, a senior who lives on Ivory’s sixth floor, welcomed the new cameras.
“I’m glad that we have cameras because my floor is where most of the damage was happening. For me, I was just glad that they are going to possibly catch whoever’s doing all the damage,” he said.
Senior Carl Fisher said he would be opposed to the University going into residents’ rooms unauthorized or putting video cameras in rooms, “but out in the halls I think that’s completely legitimate.”
-Jeff Richards contributed to this report