MU unhurried in adding garage surveillance

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | 6:10 p.m. CST; updated 8:44 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA— In the past three years, more than 30 security cameras have been installed inside MU parking garages as a response to the 2005 slaying of MU researcher Jeong Im in the Maryland Avenue parking garage, according to Jim Joy, the director of MU Parking and Transportation.

At the time of the murder, there were no cameras in any of MU’s six parking structures, Joy said, so MU Parking Services began a pilot project to see if security cameras would deter crimes in campus garages. Sixteen to 18 cameras were installed in the Maryland Avenue structure, but the results were inconclusive, Joy said.

“How can you measure what you’ve prevented?” he said.

MU Parking Services installed the same amount of security cameras in the Virginia Avenue garage in the fall for $100,000, and the department plans to install cameras in the Hitt Street garage next year, Joy said. At the current price, the university can only afford to install cameras in one garage per year.

Parking Structure Seven, which is under construction on the university’s south end, will be built with security cameras.

Joy said cameras are a beneficial addition to MU garages but that there is no need to install them right away. He said he thinks security footage has been useful in police investigations of past crimes but that cameras are not effective deterrents of future crimes.

“A bank has a camera over every teller, and have you ever heard of a bank robbery?” he said.

He added that the recent vandalism of more than 40 cars in the Virginia Avenue garage took place while security cameras were present.

But MU police Capt. Brian Weimer said he thinks cameras can be effective.

“They could be used for covert surveillance operations” using dummy cars, he said, and could also be used to follow fleeing suspects. MU police have this surveillance ability with cameras placed all over campus.

He said the idea of placing signs outside monitored garages that inform people that the garage is equipped with security cameras “could potentially give people false sense of security.” The university is not required to post signs.

Several MU students, interviewed inside the Virginia Avenue parking structure, said they were unaware cameras were inside particular garages and that knowing cameras were present made no difference in how safe they felt.

“I don’t feel safe here when I’m by myself,” student Kelly Liermann said after parking her car in Virginia Avenue garage.

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