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Possible security camera use sparks campus debate

Students are expressing mixed reactions to a resolution Campus Council is currently drafting that calls for security cameras outside dormitory entrances.

The cameras would provide footage of people entering and exiting in case it is needed for a criminal investigation. Campus Council tabled its recommendation to residential services at its meeting Thursday to compile more student input. The group will consider the proposal again Thursday.

Contrary to the views of many Campus Council leaders, most students said possible infringements upon their privacy rights did not overshadow the security benefits that could result.

Freshman Lizzy De La Garza, who lives in Randolph--a dorm that already has cameras outside the entrances--said she believes the cameras do not invade her sense of privacy since they are not placed inside the dorm.

"You're just entering the building. You're not completely inside," De La Garza said. "Once you're in your hallway or room, you can do whatever you want."

Alex Steingart, another freshman, agreed. "If [the cameras] are outside the dorm, it's not like they're spying on someone naked in the bathroom," he said.

The fact that administrators said the tapes would not be under constant surveillance makes cameras more acceptable, according to some students.

"It's probably a good idea, especially since they're not reviewing it all the time," said sophomore Jason Jones. "There's a small scope of what it's looking at."

Other students argued the possible invasion of privacy is sufficient grounds not to implement the cameras.

"It would take an awful lot for me to agree with putting in cameras and invasions by an outside source," said Alex Wenger, a senior. "I don't see that more technology is necessarily the answer here."

Leila Fusfeld, another senior, agreed. "It's annoying enough to have a record every time I swipe my [DukeCard]," she said.

Many students also said the overall effectiveness of the cameras remains debatable and questioned if this measure would tackle larger security problems on campus.

"I'm not sure if there is that much [the University] can do," said Fusfeld, adding that dorms should vote to accept the cameras before they are installed. "I don't know if the cameras are enough to deter sexual assaults."

Some students, however, argued that the presence of cameras might be enough to make a potential perpetrator think twice before committing a crime.

"[The cameras] will help catch a certain number of people," junior Meredith Miller said. "If any people get caught, [it] will help prevent crimes.... It's hard to provide protection for people if they have no fear of consequences."

Others said they doubt that cameras will prevent potential crimes and may only identify possible suspects once the offenses have already occurred.

"For the past couple of years, Duke has been highly reactionary.... It doesn't seem like the administration thinks ahead to the consequences of their decisions," Miller said. "The security cameras might be a effective solution if they use them well and plan how they'll be used."

Some students criticized the cameras, saying they could be used to implicate students for illegal activities such as underage drinking. "It would be off its use to prosecute for underage drinking. It's not the thing it was intended to be used for," Jones said.

However, some students said they believe the complaints are not justified. "If they are doing something that's illegal anyway, it seems like it's something they don't have a right to complain about," Steingart said. He added, however, that it would be difficult for administrators and police to take the time to identify students on video.

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