Ubiquitous as video surveillance is, it may not come as a surprise that a camera at a fraternity house near the University of Kansas cleared basketball player Carlton Bragg Jr. of a battery charge and allegedly showed his girlfriend doing the smacking.
That’s the reason we have security cameras, right? But is it really necessary that they stare at the everyday comings and goings of people at the buildings where they live?
The Delta Upsilon house in Lawrence is larger than many apartment buildings. And increasingly, residential facilities housing dozens of occupants are placing video cameras in hallways, near stairways, at elevators and in common areas — for the protection of both tenant and owner.
“It’s common practice for fraternities and sororities to have them,” said Ashley Martin, director of communications for Delta Upsilon International. “To my knowledge, we’ve not heard complaints (regarding privacy) from fraternity members.”
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Surveillance cameras at residential facilities once stayed outside or near entryways. But 5 to 10 percent of apartment complexes around Kansas City now have cameras inside, too, keeping watch over common areas, leasing offices and places where residents might trip and get injured, said Clayton Burnett, local branch manager for Watchtower Security Inc.
To many building owners, “the cameras aren’t really as much for safety and security as they are about asset protection,” Burnett said.
Someone who smears graffiti in a hallway or allows a pet to defecate on the carpet can and will be held accountable. A tenant who complains of an overnight ruckus just outside her door can be proved wrong.
In the case of KU’s Bragg, initial allegations that he struck his girlfriend and shoved her onto some stairs at the Delta Upsilon house were apparently shot down by video that showed the female student doing most of the hitting.
The university doesn’t require or even suggest that fraternities and sororities use video surveillance inside their buildings. But KU has outfitted some of its own residence halls with cameras.
“In the last couple of years, more have been installed … generally on main floors, recreation rooms or looking out at parking lots,” said Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, director of news and media relations at KU.
“Nowadays, it’s more expected,” she added.
Barcomb-Peterson said she’s a bit curious as to why today’s students appear so accepting of cameras trained on them.
“Almost surprisingly, I haven’t heard any complaints,” which may not have been the case back when she was in college, she said.
And she’s just 38.