News Feature: Parking Lot Cameras

Junior Samantha Hughes would not hesitate to say that Truman State University is a safe campus — she can go on solo walks at 10:30 p.m. and feel no need to rush back to her residence hall or find a safe space because she feels secure being out on the Quad and enjoying the open air.

Hughes said she toured 18 college campuses that tried to be welcoming and safe, but Truman’s small town seemed safer because word spreads quickly.

“The campus is well lit, and the [Department of Public Safety] does a great job of keeping the students up-to-date on any circumstances that might take place,” Hughes said. 

Hughes and her roommate — junior Micaela Reiss — chose to live in the Residence Halls for their freshman, sophomore and junior years of college because they appreciate the convenience of not having to deal with utilities and the safety of living on campus. 

Reiss echoes her roommate’s sentiment that Truman is a safe campus and highlights that the DPS does a great job at keeping the students informed about situations and offering them essential information about how to report such instances.

“You hear about cars being broken into, but I feel like a lot of that is because of our small campus,” Reiss said. “You get emails about crime reports, and you hear about the things that happen around campus. I feel like Truman has taken steps to be safer, and it is very comfortable. I don’t feel like I’m in danger.” 

Reiss said car owners often admit that they left their car unlocked when their car was broken into. She said locking your car usually deters people. 

At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, the DPS took another step towards ensuring that the Truman campus remains a place where students feel safe and unthreatened: installing security cameras in the Residence Hall parking lots.

“The cameras primarily target the lots. They’re not in the buildings to avoid being an invasion of anyone’s privacy,” Lt. Jeremy Cordray said. “We do have quite a few incidents that happen in the

parking lots, and the cameras are a deterrent for those. They help us solve many of the cases we do.”

The cameras were a subtle addition for Reiss. She didn’t experience a large fuss over their installment but is grateful to have the added layer of protection.

Reiss said she was surprised there weren’t cameras before. She appreciates that DPS posts security footage on their Instagram page to aid investigations. 

“They’ll put up videos of people and attach Scooby doo stickers that ask ‘Who am I?’” Reiss said. “It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I feel pretty positive and glad they’re there.”

The parking lot cameras have proved their usefulness when it comes to detecting suspects. Throughout the first month of the 2023-24 school year, a car was stolen from the parking lot, an event that evoked a frenzy and led students to become very aware of where they parked their cars and what they left in them. 

Hughes thinks the cameras played a vital role in recovering the car and identifying the suspect.

“The turnaround time was so quick for them finding the car — maybe 48 hours — which makes me feel very settled and assured that the DPS knows what they’re doing,” Hughes said. 

Hughes said the DPS used the security cameras to provide a detailed description of the stolen car and the suspect. 

Cordray has been an active member of the DPS for six years and has witnessed how having security cameras in the parking lots has made his job more efficient. 

“The cameras definitely help,” Cordray said. “We don’t have to monitor them 24 hours a day, but they can look at them while they’re reading reports. There have been several times that something has popped up on the cameras, allowing us to address issues before they occur. 

Cordray said if something’s already happened, the cameras help them make a timeline of events, identify suspects or their characteristics, and determine how they did it or how it happened.

Reiss said she’s also grateful DPS is upfront and informs students when stolen cars are found. She said it’s reassuring. 

Student safety is the primary concern of the DPS, and Cordray encourages students to report whatever they believe to be suspicious activity because there’s always a chance something might be going on.

“We’re always trying to get students to be aware of things that are going on and report those to us,” Cordray said. “Regardless of the cameras, everyone’s out and about, and they see things. If you see something that seems out of place, let us know, and we’re more than happy to check the cameras and see what information they might be able to provide. The cameras are a tool that can help us, but they can only do so much.”