Long Beach State, a campus that spans 322 acres, has only about 100 security cameras — less than half the number seen at universities of a similar size.
According to University Police Department Capt. John Brockie, officers are able to monitor the campus despite having a lack of cameras, though this remains a budgetary issue.
In fact, CSULB began implementing surveillance cameras in the 1990s and there have been a few iterations leading to their current system, says Brockie.
“Cameras are just one part of a comprehensive, multifaceted approach to keeping the campus safe,” Brockie said.
Home to over 39,000 students, CSULB has a slightly smaller student population than California State University, Fullerton, which has 40,000 students and spans 236 acres. Fullerton has over 500 security cameras, meaning it has more than CSULB despite its smaller size.
California State University, Northridge has about 420 cameras for its 38,000 students and 356 acres.
According to data from the Annual Security Report, CSULB reported a relatively low number of crimes in 2019, though the campus had seen more motor vehicle thefts than CSUF and CSUN. In 2019, a student reported to university police that their car had been stolen at gunpoint at the Pyramid Parking Structure.
Stolen cars have been reported at CSULB’s parking lots and structures over the years, in addition to other crimes such as an armed robbery last year.
Brockie said that implementing additional surveillance cameras would help in lowering crime rates and maintained that cameras’ exact locations are not disclosed to the public “since doing so may aid someone planning to commit a crime.”
CSULB began implementing surveillance cameras in the 1990s, Brockie said, and there have been a few iterations leading to the current system.
According to CSUN UPD Capt. Scott VanScoy, Northridge’s system of closed-circuit television, or video surveillance, has led to a “drop in crime by 55% because of the analytics.” The system costs $250,000 annually for maintenance, he said.
“We put in a system here at CSUN with analytics that was about 384 cameras. That cost us close to $5 million,” VanScoy said. “CCTV cameras are very expensive to install, however in the long run they pay off if you can use them as a workforce multiplier.”
According to a research report from the Office of Legislative Research, the estimated cost of a single standard resolution camera “sufficient” for schools ranges from $500 to $1,000, and higher resolution cameras can cost up to $8,000. A security system for a large school with extensive grounds could cost as much as $200,000, according to the report.
“We implemented cameras in one of our large parking structures just about a year or so ago and it did turn out to be billions of dollars just to do that one parking structure,” Fullerton UPD Capt. Scot Willey said.
Willey said that parking structures require “dozens and dozens of cameras” on each floor, which “when you multiply that by six floors on a parking structure… can be extremely, outrageously expensive.”
“You’re never going to find a police department that doesn’t want to have thousands of cameras,” Willey said.
Jonathan Flores, a fourth-year kinesiology major, said that although he hasn’t really felt unsafe on campus, he felt it to be a problem that CSULB has significantly less cameras than universities of a similar size.
“The school makes so much money off of student fees alone that I’m sure a budget could be allocated to increase overall safety of our campus,” Flores said. “Especially if we are being charged full tuition during a pandemic for resources and faculties we cannot use.”
Lizeth Romero, a fourth-year human human development major and child development and family studies minor, said she would feel more comfortable with more surveillance cameras on campus as she feels this may deter crime.
“I would not consider it the number one priority,” Romero said. “But after learning that Long Beach has significantly less cameras than CSUF and CSUN, it may be a good idea to spend a bit more money on security cameras.”
Brockie did not comment on the number of cameras at Northridge and Fullerton, though he maintained that increasing campus security remains a concern within CSULB’s police department.
“Moving forward, we will install more cameras as deemed appropriate as part of our ongoing safety assessments,” Brockie said.
Julia Terbeche, news editor, contributed to this story.