Lights, Cameras, Crime Prevention: Student Parking Fees to Help Fund Campus Security Upgrades

Empty walkways are lit by lamp posts after-hours at Clark College on Oct. 9, 2017. (Andy Bao/The Independent)

Clark Security and Facilities will address concerns about dark areas on campus by upgrading lighting and camera coverage with new funds from the ASCC, staff and faculty unions and the operations budget.

The effort began after an instructor was assaulted near the Science Building last year, according to Director of Security and Safety Mike See.

“I’m not glad that a teacher was hurt,” See said. “But I’m glad that the discussion started about improving safety.”

See said lighting is part of what law enforcement calls “crime prevention through environmental design.”

“If people are wanting to do something they don’t want to be seen doing, they’ll look for a darker area,” he said. “The other thing is that [light] reduces fear. We fear the unknown, and the biggest unknown is what you can’t see.”

Lighting would also keep people safe from environmental hazards, See said. “Like if it’s dark and there’s an irregularity in the sidewalk, you might not see it and you could trip and fall.”

Night security guard Eben Ayers said he usually adapts to the dark. “But I guess if I’m having to pull my flashlight out, then there’s not enough light,” he said.

Some of the money for the project will come from raised parking fees, which are integrated into tuition. ASCC Finance Director Ken Teoh said the executive council approved the change from $0.50 to $1 per credit hour last spring.

Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson said early projections for the quarter were around $50,000. However, the amount will be under because fewer students enrolled than projected.

Williamson said the fee was last raised in 1993, with specific guidelines for how it would be spent every quarter.

“A portion would go to maintain parking lots: striping, re-paving, keeping lots functional,” Williamson said. “The rest goes to maintaining our 24/7/365 security force.”

Williamson said administrators are also negotiating with the faculty and classified staff unions to raise their parking contributions, a process he hopes will wrap up this quarter and go into effect for winter.

See said while he appreciates the money, he wants to be careful how Security spends it.

“The student government said ‘yes, we want this and we are willing to pay for it,’” he said. “But we understand that that’s not a blank check. We want to be good stewards of that money, so our plan is to be very open and transparent with the student government.”

Clark’s Executive Cabinet also approved $75,000 from the Repairs and Minor Improvements budget to install cameras, said Director of Facilities Services Tim Petta, but that will come from the capital budget which has yet to pass the Washington State legislature.

According to Williamson, cameras are already used in cashiering, the bookstore, dental hygiene, child and family studies, the testing and assessment center, financial aid, the Columbia Tech Center, the STEM building and the Economic and Community Development building downtown.

“It’s all in places where there’s risk of theft or fraud or, in the case of child services, abduction,” he said, adding that state laws limit the use of cameras to public areas, and that union negotiations will address privacy concerns raised by faculty.

“The unions have asked that [President Bob Knight]  publicly share where these new cameras will be located,” he said. “I think that’s a fair request and one that will be easy to comply with.”

Students will have a chance to voice their opinions on the use of lights and cameras. The ASCC has asked Planning and Effectiveness to include the question “Is campus well-lit?” in its survey planned for the end of Fall quarter, which they expect to reach around 80 percent of students, said ASCC President Grace Moe. She said the ASCC will conduct its own survey in Winter quarter to determine what areas of campus need more lights.

“If I could, I would light this place up like a football field,” See told the ASCC in October. But the college is constrained by rules around light pollution and carbon emissions.

According to Petta, the easiest way to stay environmentally friendly is using LEDs, which cost more upfront but save money by using less energy. He said LEDs were installed in all parking lots two years ago and the feedback from the change has been overwhelmingly positive. But, Petta said, the college doesn’t want to get ahead of itself.

“The lighting industry is changing so quickly,” Petta said. “The LED is relatively new technology, and we don’t want to be the first on a bandwagon for a product that’s only on the shelf for a few months.”

To make sure they are investing wisely, Petta said Facilities set up two test lights: one on the north side of the Science building illuminating the south entrance to Anna Pechanec Hall and one on the stairway from the facilities building to APH. He said the covered areas of the Science building have already been fitted with LEDs.

See said he thinks it’s possible to take care of all the problem areas, but if more become apparent Security will remain flexible.

“It’ll be an ongoing project,” See said. “It’s the kind of work you never consider to be done.”

About Benji Grundner (28 Articles)

Senior Reporter for the Clark College Independent. Activist, anarchist, autodidact. Big butt, bigger heart. Ask me about my quidditch team. Go Broncos.

Sometimes tweets from: @IndyCCnews

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