OCC security camera

Orange Coast College security cameras are often unable to identify suspects when they're caught on video.

To meet the growing needs of campus life, Orange Coast College’s current hit-or-miss surveillance system is set to receive major upgrades as the campus expands.

Safety upgrades to the college’s aging surveillance systems will cost more than $1 million and will be phased in over a five-year period.

“We’re trying to keep the system we have as robust as possible, but I think we’re on the verge of having to replace the whole technology,” Kevin Ballinger, OCC Interim President said of the college’s system of cameras and other surveillance machinery.

Approved components of the project include numerous digital cameras at $4,000 each, data servers for information backup, updated lighting around campus and costs for maintenance and upkeep.

“There’s a lot of interest in upgrading the entire campus’ surveillance system. There are some cameras that are the latest and are good, but there are a lot that have come to their shelf life,” Jim Rudy, director of Campus Safety said.

In many instances cameras currently in use have missed capturing incidents on campus, including thefts and other incidents.

“There’s some old stuff out there. It’s unfortunate that sometimes we have incidents and they say, ‘we couldn’t get it on camera,’” Rich Pagel, vice president of Administrative Services said.

Problems affecting camera coverage include environmental wear and tear, aging equipment or even obstructions that occur when plants grow or objects move near cameras.

Despite some failures, school administrators and Campus Safety argue that surveillance overall is positive.

“In my opinion the cameras have worked well for us. We just had an incident where a male student grabbed at the backpack of a female student that the cameras did a really nice job of picking up the person in question. It’s just hit and miss sometimes. When they work they’re great — they’re right there — you get clears shots of the student,” Pagel said.

Officials are determining specifics of the project such as how to implement a district-wide open-access video surveillance system to allow sharing cameras with all Coast Community College District locations as well as the number of servers needed to keep video recordings on campus.

A new campus-wide digital parking system has also been approved and is should be up and running in the fall.

The system will allow several ways for drivers to pay for parking on campus through a phone app to register vehicles. Drivers parking on campus will also have the option to park at virtual parking meters for which time can be extended through the app.

Getting rid of physical permits avoids a lot of frustrating situations that result in hassles for students and Campus Safety alike. The need to have dollar bills and experiencing the angst of coins being stuck every time will be a thing of the past.

With construction on student housing underway, focus on campus has shifted into how to prepare to be open at all hours of the day.

“It’s really going to expand into a 24-hour operation. This campus will be alive 24 hours a day,” Rudy said.

Projects currently being built, such as the Aquatic Center and the Student Center have new, modern camera systems accounted for in the budgets of those projects.

With buildings currently going up and future projects actively being planned that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, Pagel described the need to update and maintain a robust surveillance system as a matter of health and safety.

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