Johnson County Community College upgrades security cameras for more proactive policing

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Johnson County Community College is in the process of switching its security camera network from analog to digital.

The upgrade is part of a multi-year security camera project the school’s Board of Trustees approved two years ago.

“We’ve done the research to put those cameras in a strategic location to where the entire campus will be covered,” said Chief Gregory Russell with the Johnson County Community College Police Department.

The department has been using analog cameras for well over a decade, but the system is outdated and often produced blurry images.

“If we had to lean on it to get a facial recognition identification, it wouldn’t be a good thing for us,” Russell said.

The new digital system creates a higher resolution and can zoom in and out on a subject.

“We’ll be able to zoom in to get a more identifiable photograph of an individual whether it’s a face capture shot or a license plate off a vehicle,” Russell said.

The $2 million project calls for 500 digital cameras strategically placed across camera; the school has already installed and activated more than 350 cameras.

“We have more than 19,000 people through this campus on a given day,” Russell said. “By having the ability to surveil the campus in the fashion that we do, I think it just gives us that upper hand.”

Students on campus said they welcome the extra security.

“I honestly think it’s great with everything that’s going on around the country,” Heidy Verbana said.

“If someone’s acting suspicious, they’ll be more likely to notice it,” Jase Pickering said.

“You tend to watch what you’re doing when you’re on camera,” Candice Bybee said.

Russell said the new technology has already proven successful in solving two recent crimes, including a robbery and a case involving someone stealing license plates.

“We capture that individual, capture the scene as it’s occurring and turn it into a case where we can present to a prosecutor for a disposition,” he said.

He insisted the added cameras are not about “Big Brother” watching students but instead about proactive policing.

“We don’t infringe on privacy, and we don’t put cameras where they shouldn’t be,” Russell said. “We are being proactive in the event we get a person that comes on campus with ill intent to do harm or to steal or to be disruptive.”

Russell said the new camera system is just one of several security measures in place to ensure safety on campus. The goal is to have all 500 cameras up and operation by 2020.