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Video Cameras More Common


Video surveillance cameras can be found in Iowa on college campuses, in casinos, along highways, in businesses and maybe in your neighborhood. Here are some of the uses:

University of Iowa

Kinnick Stadium, which routinely hosts sellout football crowds of 70,000, has 27 video surveillance cameras placed in and around the facility, said Chuck Green, director of the University of Iowa's Department of Public Safety. The cameras are used only on Hawkeye football game days. Law enforcement officers in a stadium skybox monitor the video, in cooperation with athletic department employees.

Green declined to specify the exact camera locations.

"We can go to various locations, hit the camera and zoom in," Green said. "We can just kind of scan the crowd and make sure that things are looking normal."

The university keeps videos for seven to nine days after a game.

Joe Chmelka, president of the Polk County I-Club, a booster group for U of I athletics, said last week he was unaware that video surveillance cameras have been installed at Kinnick, even though he has been attending football games there for 28 years.

"I think the next time I go to the stadium, I will look up and around and see where they are," Chmelka said.

The stadium's video system is about three years old. Previously, Kinnick had a very modest video camera setup, Green said.

Elsewhere on the Iowa City campus, eight "Blue Cap" emergency phones are equipped with video cameras, and more will be added, Green said. Security cameras are installed inside and outside of the University Capitol Centre. They also watch some public areas of student housing.

An unspecified number of video cameras watch other "very sensitive areas" of the campus, but Green would not disclose the locations for security reasons.
Iowa State University

Jack Trice Stadium has four video surveillance cameras mounted on light towers in each corner of the facility. There is one video camera on the center of the stadium's east concourse and another on the center of the west concourse.

"They are not meant to be hidden in any way," said Rob Bowers, associate director of ISU's Department of Public Safety. "But would most people know they are there? I don't know the answer to that."

This is about the third year the cameras have been used for Cyclone football games, he said.

The stadium's video cameras have not been used to gather evidence for arrests, but they have proven valuable for medical emergencies, Bowers said. When a fan suffers a stroke or heart attack, what is seen and heard on the video can be shared with first responders en route to the victim.

Authorities also use the cameras for crowd control, such as improving the flow of fans through the stadium's gates and monitoring game-day traffic on roads near the stadium.

Iowa State University has 51 surveillance cameras on campus and more are planned, said Maggie Hamilton, manager of building access services. Except for the football stadium, where authorities monitor live video on game days, video is used only for investigative purposes after an incident, she said.
University of Northern Iowa

The UNI-Dome, the indoor arena in Cedar Falls where the UNI Panthers football team plays its home games, does not have video surveillance cameras installed solely for sports events. But eight outdoor security cameras monitor parking lots used by sports fans, said Dave Zarifis, director of UNI's Department of Public Safety. Additional video cameras, at the Residence on the Hill complex, mainly watch parking lots.

"We have had tremendous success with those cameras," Zarifis said. "I can tell you that we have probably reduced our burglary rate by about 85 percent" in parking lots where cameras are installed.

Public safety dispatchers monitor the cameras.

UNI also has cameras inside some campus buildings that are not monitored, but the video is saved, allowing public safety staff to review the video if an incident occurs.
Iowa City Public Library

There are surveillance cameras inside the men's and women's restrooms at the Iowa City Public Library. Their purpose is to protect public safety as well as the library collection and the building, said library director Susan Craig.

She said two arrests have been made based on evidence from security tapes, one for theft and one for assault, since the cameras were installed in 2007.

That followed the arrest of a man for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 2-year-old girl in a restroom at the old downtown Des Moines library in 2005.

Signs warn visitors about the cameras, which are not pointed at toilet stalls or urinals.

"The cameras are not monitored, so no one is sitting and watching whether you washed your hands or not," Craig said.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has received complaints about the library restroom cameras. Executive Director Ben Stone said he has been told that people attending Hawkeye football games or who are visiting Iowa City bars often use the library's restrooms to change their clothes. He said they don't want to be on camera.

The Iowa City library's board of trustees discussed the ACLU complaints at a meeting in 2008. But the trustees voted 7-0 to reaffirm the use of the restroom surveillance cameras.

Craig told the board nothing is seen by the cameras that would not be seen by people walking into the restrooms. Images are reviewed only in response to an incident, she said.
Waterloo police

Two or three pole-mounted cameras are clandestinely set up in high-crime neighborhoods, Waterloo police Capt. John Beckman said.

"They are not out there for people to take notice of, and it is generally in areas where we have been having problems," he said.

"If an incident happens, it is downloaded onto a hard drive so we can go back and review it."
Iowa casinos

Anyone who sets foot in an Iowa casino can expect to be under video surveillance, said Charis Paulson, assistant director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which oversees casino security.

The division requires all 17 state-regulated casinos to provide video surveillance, as well as two tribal-controlled casinos in Tama and Sloan.

"Most casinos have video surveillance in parking lots, hotel hallways and entrances," she said. "What is required by us is the gaming floor, all of the tables, the cages where people pass money, entrances and exits, and money routes," where employees carry money back and forth and where armored cars make pickups.

The surveillance is aimed at protecting the integrity of Iowa's casinos, Paulson said.

"If there is ever a question as whether a 20 (dollar bill) was passed or a 100, the cameras can zoom right in and read the serial numbers," Paulson said. "For the tables, we can look at those videos and see if people are cheating" by sliding dice instead of rolling them, or adding or removing chips to their bets. The surveillance also helps keep patrons safe, she said.
Pappajohn Sculpture Garden

Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. donated the electronic security system for the sculpture garden in downtown Des Moines. The gift includes $560,000 for equipment and monitoring by Nationwide's security team for 10 years at a estimated cost of $100,000 annually, city officials said.

A speaker system provides recorded messages to caution visitors, and one-way communication allows Nationwide security personnel to speak to visitors. Des Moines police and Des Moines Park and Recreation Department officials also coordinate and manage oversight of security.

The security team retains the video images for up to 30 days, and it has agreed to provide police with video upon written request from city officials. Visitors have already tripped automated sensors numerous times, triggering recorded messages to people who get too close to certain sculptures.

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