At the back of Orange Coast College’s Campus Safety building is a small desk crowded by a set of dual monitors the size of big-screen TVs.
From here, Bill Hudson, sees everything on campus.
As one of two Campus Safety dispatch directors, Hudson is responsible for relaying information and messages between Campus Safety officers, faculty, staff — and even local police. Often he facilitates students and personal escorts from Campus Safety assistants.
“I’m the middle man between the officers and students, between the officers and the rest of the staff sometimes,” Hudson said.
Even though Hudson is in touch with much of what happens on campus, most students would walk past him without knowing who he is.
“They are the link between the initial report and the response,” Jim Rudy, director of Campus Safety said.
Hudson’s dispatch station is positioned next to a back door where Campus Safety assistants frequently come to receive items and instructions. Accompanying the monitors on his desk are multiple walkie-talkies, a couple of phones, lists, papers, a joystick for maneuvering camera angles and lots of little notes.
One day in April, an instructor requested help in unlocking a classroom so that she can retrieve her lunch.
There are roughly 360 cameras around campus. They record building interiors, parking lots, walkways as well as the emergency lines with blue lights where someone in need may call Campus Safety.
Campus dispatchers watch all of these cameras, combing through busy student movement for anything which may need help and attention and in response to what they see or what is requested, they deliver the message.
“I receive all the calls from the emergency lines, you know, the blue lights around campus,” Hudson said.
Another radio call came in. Hudson dutifully entered information into his dispatcher daily report before following through with the request.
“A lot of times when we get an emergency line call, there’s no one there, but we check every time to ensure everyone is OK,” Hudson said.
Not all calls are earnest requests for help, but rather an accidental push from jacket sleeves or backpacks. Some calls are even attempts to agitate Campus Safety into reversing parking tickets received by students earlier that day. People even like to push them as a joke.
Another message came in requesting a “1014” for a student in front of the Math, Business and Computing Center. It’s a call for a personal escort.
Campus Safety assistants came to the door adjacent to the dispatch desk to confirm location data with Hudson about the student.
For dispatch, busy times vary.
The first two weeks of the summer semester are slow, resulting in as few as six requests per day from Campus Safety. At other times, such as at the beginning of the spring semester, dispatch requests may number over 60 per day.
“We put down the important details of every call in case we need to call them back for some reason. We put what unit we send, what time we send them, what time they got there and what time they’re done. So we keep a good list of everything in case we ever need it. We keep these records forever,” Hudson said.
Many of the cameras are state of the art, allowing an operator to change camera position, zoom in or out or even to take still images. Other cameras are decades old.
“Campus is fairly peaceful most of the time. Sometimes we look back at tapes to investigate stuff and that’s fun. I love catching people doing something wrong,” Hudson said.
At times it’s necessary to put in orders for camera cleanings or repositioning. A lot of elements go into maintaining an effective surveillance network. Hudson has been a part of the dispatch routine at OCC for two years now. Before this, he ran an arcade in Newport Beach for 27 years.
One time, a student’s father contacted dispatch to warn them that his son was coming to campus with items that looked like hand grenades — but were actually stink bombs — that he planned to throw into Campus Safety vehicles.
Dispatch then alerted the Costa Mesa Police Department, but the student never showed up to campus that day.
“It’s all about keeping everybody safe. Not only our officers, but the campus,” Hudson said.