GVPD completes multi-million-dollar security camera installation


GVL Archives

Adam Trombley, Staff Reporter

The Grand Valley State University Police Department (GVPD) has all but wrapped up their multi-million-dollar security camera project after two years of working on the installation. The number of security cameras installed has nearly tripled since the start of the project in 2018. These cameras are met to help GVPD with investigations and incidents on GVSU’s campuses, but it is also meant to help keep the GVSU community safe and at ease.

“Before we instituted this program, we had what we guessed was 5% of the property covered, and now it’s closer to 85%,” said GVPD Capt. Jeffrey Stoll.

The department originally had 300 cameras located throughout GVSU’s campuses. Now, that number is around 1,500 cameras that are spread out throughout the Allendale and Pew campuses, as well as the satellite campuses located in Holland and Detroit. Most of the cameras span across the outside of the campuses, with fewer installed inside of buildings.

“If you wanted to cover all the interiors of all the building that 1,500 could easily turn into 3, 4 or 5,000,” Stoll said. “Part of it is being financially effective and focusing on getting as much as we can. The goal is to capture as much valuable information as possible. What places should and should not be covered? Outside there are much less privacy-related issues.”

Installation of the cameras inside can be very costly and can cause privacy issues, which led to the department using the cameras on the outsides of buildings and in areas where the most traffic occurs.

Having cameras has spurred concern from other schools that facial recognition would be used to single out students, but Stoll said that is not the case at GVSU.

“There’s a difference between facial recognition and facial identification,” Stoll said. “Facial recognition would indicate you already have a database in place comparing someone’s biometric traits to a preexisting list. We don’t do that. We’re only looking at camera feeds that are related to an investigatory issue.”

The dispatch center is where the camera feeds are located and because of the dispatchers being highly trained in the system, they are able to view 100 cameras at once and can pull a live view of a scene up whenever needed. Stoll says that having these cameras and dispatchers have been very successful in solving incidents or getting evidence so far.

So far, the main successes involve hit-and-run accidents. When students don’t report the accident as they’re supposed to, the cameras can help the officers see who hit the other car. These cameras have also been effective in both medical emergencies and shoplifting of food and other items across many of the campuses’ retail stores.

“I think it’s good that the community knows we have them,” Stoll said. “I think we use them appropriately for investigative responses and I think we’ve worked hard to develop a policy that protects the community.”

He added that the cameras policy follows legal guidelines set forth and is also approved by President Philomena Mantella herself.

The project is nearly complete, but some tweaks to the cameras and systems are expected to happen in the near future. GVPD hopes the cameras deter people from making bad choices and they hope to keep the community safe on all the campuses by using the newly installed system.