Always under surveillance

Like a street boxer out to pick a fight, Chuck Banaszewski squares off against a television monitor inside the Lattie F. Coor Hall Computing Commons. It's a Friday morning in April [2004], and his surveillance camera theater is attracting attention. People whisper and peek over their computers as Banaszewski -- broad shouldered with spiked, black hair, square-rimmed glasses and dark eyes -- clutches an empty picture frame. He's wearing a white T-shirt with the word "protestor" emblazoned in black, capital letters across his chest.

"What are you protesting?" asks Sara Stow, a mass communication and theatre freshman. "I protest a lot of things," he responds. Banaszewski is a Ph.D. candidate in ASU's fine arts department. He also directs the Arizona Surveillance Camera Players, a theater group he founded in 2001 to protest the use of cameras in public space.

"I protest people who violate our First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights. I protest people who don't recycle. I protest people who violate our right to privacy." Then, he tells Stow about the surveillance cameras stationed in and around the Coor Building, 29 in all, which the University recently installed at a cost of about $80,000. "Are they there to protect property or people?" He poses the question, then looks back at the monitor. Nodding slowly, Stow says she'll keep that in mind. Outside the building, she says, "They don't make their cameras very noticeable, so it's kind of weird that you might be watched."

Property or people?

And that's what worries civil liberties advocates like Banaszewski and Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union. Advocates say cameras, paid for with public money and trained on public spaces, are open to abuse, undermine privacy rights and promote a culture of fear. Cameras, like the one atop the southwest corner of Hayden Library with views from Hayden Lawn to the Memorial Union, could monitor protests and have a "chilling effect" on free speech and assembly, they say.

Privately, at least some ASU police officials have questioned how effective the cameras really are. In internal ASU e-mails several years ago, obtained by The State Press through a public records search, police officials recommended getting rid of the cameras. A University-commissioned study came to the same conclusion. Current police officials defend the cameras, insisting that their benefits outweigh civil liberties concerns. They say cameras deter crime and assist in gathering evidence for police investigations. Either way, camera use is widespread at ASU.

Policy violated

Responses to public records requests for half a dozen departments across the ASU campus show that in the past decade, the University spent more than $300,000 on more than 190 cameras in campus parking lots, Manzanita Hall, University libraries, the Lattie F. Coor Building, the Student Services Building, the Memorial Union, the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering and the first two Arizona Biodesign Institute buildings. There are almost certainly dozens, maybe hundreds, more cameras in and around other academic buildings scattered across campus. No one knows for sure how many there are, or even where they are, because no one office or person at ASU keeps track.

Officials with the ASU Department of Public Safety say they're not responsible for surveillance cameras on campus. Individual University departments install and monitor their own cameras, and DPS only gets involved in reviewing tapes if a camera may have caught a criminal act and giving departments advice on how to use the cameras legally, said ASU DPS Cmdr. John Sutton.

That's not the way it's supposed to work. DPS has on its books the only University policy governing the use of surveillance cameras - and it's routinely violated. For example, the policy states that all cameras installed in public areas of campus since 2002 should have an accompanying sign informing people that they're being watched. There are no such signs on campus. Just in the past six months, cameras have been installed on the new Coor Building and outside and inside of Hayden Library, with no notification that they're there. DPS also is supposed to review applications and issue permits to departments that want to install surveillance cameras. That almost never happens.

Here's how it's supposed to work: Departments fill out an application specifying what cameras they want to install, where and why. They're supposed to state whether the surveillance will be covert or overt, how the system will be monitored, whether recordings will be made and for how many hours a day and how long tapes will be saved. DPS is then to approve or reject the application. However, only one application -- for the Wells Fargo kiosk in the Memorial Union -- has been turned in to the DPS since 2002, when the policy went into effect.

The plethora of surveillance cameras on campus, together with the lack of a standardized and effective monitoring system for how they are used, bothers civil liberties advocates like Eisenberg. "We are becoming a surveillance society," she said, "and people need to be aware of the fact ... that they're on camera almost constantly, not just on college campuses, but on virtually every city in the country. "This is a very serious issue, and we have to decide what kind of society we want to live in."

Minimum signage

Last November, 13 tennis-ball-sized orbs attached to white, plastic bases appeared on Hayden Library ceilings. Some were tucked into nooks and corners of the library entrance and the adjacent study room. Sherrie Schmidt, ASU dean of University libraries, said she had the $29,000 surveillance system installed to prepare for the library system's first 24-hour schedule during finals week in December when there would be fewer staff members -- and lots of students -- in the building. "We have concern for the security of students and our materials and our equipment," she said. "The point was not to spy on anybody, but to create an environment where students could feel secure."

Besides, said Stewart Adams, DPS crime prevention specialist, "The president said, 'Make [Hayden Library] safe.'" Adams, who advises ASU faculty and staff on how to legally employ surveillance cameras, said the cameras make students feel safer, serve as psychological deterrents to potential criminals and help with the evidence-gathering process after a crime has been committed. "We have to think like the bad guy," he said. "The bad guy doesn't want to be identified." The cameras are much cheaper than hiring security personnel to watch the library system 24 hours a day, 362 days a year, he said. That, he said, could cost up to $1 million per year. The 13 cameras were paid for out of the library's budget, Adams said. "We don't have any kind of money to do this kind of thing."

But the library never installed signs, as required by DPS policy. Nor did library officials apply for a surveillance camera permit. "We did talk about signs, and they said they were going to put some up," Adams said. According to the DPS Police Services Manual, "Signs shall be displayed prominently in public areas covered by video surveillance." That applies to any camera that has been installed or upgraded since January 2002 except cameras used by DPS for clandestine operations. The policy gives this example of what a sign could say: "For your protection, this area may be monitored by video surveillance cameras."

But Hayden Library is not an isolated case when it comes to failing to post signs around surveillance cameras. "There are no signs anywhere on campus," said Randy Hoyum, an ASU DPS patrol officer with the crime prevention unit, during a recent interview that included Adams and Sutton. "The campus doesn't like a whole lot of signage everywhere," Adams said. To which Sutton added: "After we kind of give them their blessing, they're on their own."

Inadequate, expensive

If, as DPS says, the cameras are supposed to make people feel safer and to warn would-be criminals that they're being watched, what good does it do to have cameras and no signs? Surveillance cameras are thought to produce the same deterrent effect on people as a uniformed police officer -- when people know they're there. As an added bonus, they make a record of crimes in progress. But how effective are they in reality? DPS doesn't have any idea, Sutton said, because the department doesn't collect or analyze that data for ASU's campus. Nor does the department have any plans to do so.

But in the summer of 1997, ASU Parking and Transit Services paid security consultants Dunlap and Associates Inc. $5,000 to study the effectiveness of surveillance cameras at Parking Lots 58 and 59. Records show that at that time, the lots had a $50,000, 16-camera CCTV system, whose cameras could pan, tilt and zoom. Most of the surveillance cameras on campus are CCTVs, closed-circuit televisions, which are a linked system of cameras that can be viewed and operated from a central location.

The system was installed in 1993 and upgraded in 1994 for $16,000. DPS personnel monitored it constantly. But interviews with DPS personnel and supervisors revealed that monitoring the parking lots was last on their priority lists, the study said. The system was in poor repair, and personnel did not consider it useful. Only rarely did DPS personnel note suspicious activity and send out a patrol as a result of something they saw on the monitors. The report went on to say that while the cameras were originally installed to provide a historical record of activity in the parking lots, both the director of ASU DPS and the DPS Chief of Police expected the system to have at least a minimal deterrent effect against criminals and criminal activity. They also expected it would provide ASU students and employees some sense of security.

"Based on the above goals, it is clear that the CCTV system is not presently meeting its stated objectives," the report concluded. "Some of the controls do not function, and the camera quality, camera placement and lens selection do not allow the CCTV system to adequately identify individuals, activity and vehicles." The report also noted that no ASU department appears to have a "clear leadership role in the planning, purchase, control or maintenance of the various CCTV systems now on campus." The cameras are no longer in operation due to construction, and haven't been monitored for several years, said Cheryl Carlyle, ASU insurance program coordinator.

But even before the study was commissioned, internal ASU e-mails show that DPS officials had misgivings about CCTVs. In a message dated Jan. 29, 1997 between former ASU DPS Chief of Police Lanny Standridge and former DPS Lt. Bennett Rowe, Rowe wrote that he believed cameras, rather than serving as deterrents, were a "great expense" in labor and technical costs. Dispatchers, he wrote, were too busy answering phones and radio to concentrate on the cameras' TV monitor. "The probability of seeing a crime, at a particular moment, on a particular camera is pretty slim," he said. "My vote is to delete the cameras until we can properly fund, plan and develop systems to include monitoring, and maintenance, along with staffing."

In another e-mail, sent March 31, 1997, Carol McLeod, former DPS communications center supervisor, wrote that she'd heard from another DPS official that cameras and the people monitoring them in dispatch had prevented a burglary in Lot 59 two weeks before. "So far, I can find nothing validating this statement," she said in the note. "It would be a rare event if this did happen."

On Christmas 2003, a month and a half after new security cameras had been installed at Hayden Library, DPS records show someone broke into the library and stole between $300 and $500 from a safe in the building. But the library's cameras weren't recording because the system hadn't been fully installed yet, Adams said. No one has been charged for that crime, DPS records show.

Hoyum recalled one instance in which cameras did help solve a crime. About six years ago, he said, there was a spate of robberies on campus, so the physical sciences buildings installed a set of cameras. The cameras caught the offenders on tape, and Hoyum ran into them on campus, tracked them to their houses and recovered more than $150,000 worth of stolen equipment. "Just by the photos, we knew who we were looking for," he said. "And when we saw them, we got them."

Effectiveness studied

The effectiveness of surveillance cameras has been studied by various research and police organizations around the world with mixed results. A 2001 report by the RAND Corp., a nonprofit group that researches and analyzes public policies, concluded that surveillance cameras can prevent crime by deterrence, "especially when overt surveillance activities remind potential criminals of police presence and observation."

In a March 2001 survey of more than 200 police departments nationwide, the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that CCTV is useful in evidence gathering, reducing police officers' time in court, protecting officers against misconduct claims and training other officers. The report also noted that while police departments aren't legally required to notify the public of surveillance in public spaces, doing so improves community-police relations.

But Jason Ditton, a professor at the University of Sheffield in Scotland who has studied CCTV in the United Kingdom for more than a decade, said the record is mixed. In the United Kingdom, there are more surveillance cameras looking on public spaces per capita than anywhere else in the world, and legally mandated signs signaling their presence are widespread. During the 1990s, Ditton studied the downtown camera systems and their effect on public perception of crime in two Scottish cities: the capital, Glasgow, and the much-smaller Airdrie. In Airdrie, there was a 21 percent drop in adjusted crime rates two years after the cameras' installation, while in the capital, there was no significant change in adjusted crime rates.

"What we have been able to show is that CCTV didn't reduce crime," he wrote in his 1999 research findings titled "The effect of CCTV on recorded crime rates and public concern about crime in Glasgow. And it didn't reduce fear of crime," he continued. "If anything, there was a slight increase in anxiety."

Monitoring Protests

In the modern America of multi-tasking and networking, the camera atop the southwest corner of Hayden Library has got it down. Hooked to a J-shaped pole, it can zoom, tilt and pan 180 degrees, seeing all the way from Hayden Lawn to the Memorial Union. Originally, its purpose was to watch Hayden Library's entrance, but it has other benefits, said Adams, the DPS crime prevention specialist. It could keep an eye on protests, he said.

That's both negative and positive, depending on which side of the electronic eye you fall. Eisenberg said the ACLU doesn't look kindly on cameras that monitor protests. The cameras' presence reflects the attitude "that those of us who choose to protest may be regarded as unpatriotic, as troublemakers, as criminals," she said. "And none of those things are true."

But Adams said police aren't trying to squash First Amendment rights. "If there's a demonstration and we can monitor it in that area, we can . . . keep it peaceful," he said. While he said he couldn't cite a real-life example, he mentioned the hypothetical situation of two groups protesting against each other. If the situation looked like it might get out of hand, DPS could mobilize to keep the peace. "I think (cameras have) a calming effect on people," Adams said. "The chilling effect is a positive thing because it may keep people in line -- not doing something illegal." Anyway, he said, Hayden Library's camera "like most on campus, is not regularly monitored, only on request."

That kind of argument obscures the real issues, Banaszewski said. "Cameras do not protect anybody," he said. "That's how they sell them to the American public -- that these are going to protect you. But I've never seen a camera stop a bomb. I've never seen a camera stop a robbery . . . I've never seen a camera stop a fight. It comes down to what's the intent." What would happen if he followed people around on the street with a video camera, he asked. "Maybe I have no intention other than just to have a collection of pictures. But what would the government's intentions be?"

In the wrong hands

While the hundreds of cameras around ASU are continually trained on students, faculty and staff, typically, there's almost never anyone looking. As far as it's possible to determine, the only camera that is actively monitored is the one at the Wells Fargo bank kiosk in the Memorial Union. Otherwise, the cameras simply record information that no one ever looks at unless someone specifically asks the DPS to do so.

But there are those hours and hours of tapes to contend with. Most of ASU's CCTV systems keep collections of pictures in some form or another, whether it's on VHS tapes or on digital storage devices. According to the 2002 ASU surveillance camera policy, tapes should be stored for a minimum of 30 days, but records show there's no set University-wide standard for length of storage and what is to be done with storage devices after they're used up. In other words, no one on campus, except those responsible for the cameras in each building, could say what happens to camera footage. That means hours and hours of information about people with no one to make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands.

That may change July 1 when the DPS crime prevention unit is supposed to adopt and publish technical and quality control standards for surveillance cameras on campus. Adams said the standards will deal with legal placement of the cameras and what systems, storage devices and storage length courts accept in prosecution of crimes. ASU departments may have to upgrade their outdated camera systems if they want to be able to use them to prosecute criminals, a task which could be costly.

But until then, quality and storage type and length varies from building to building. For example, the five cameras at Manzanita Hall's entrances, lobbies, elevators and stairwells record 24-hours a day, and tapes are replaced each day and stored for 14 days. After that, they're re-used. At the Coor Building, the 29 digital cameras at various entrances and exits record to a hard drive for about three weeks apiece. Then re-recording begins.

And here's the crux of the problem: Those recordings could fall into the wrong hands or be misused, civil liberties advocates say. With all these tapes floating around and cameras capturing countless hours of digital footage, someone, about whom you know nothing, could know everything about you, Banaszewski said. Bob Nelson, ASU information technology assistant vice provost, said the Coor camera system is secure; computer hackers could not break into it. But it's a question of privacy that struck a chord at the Coor Computing Commons.

While staring down the cameras, picture frame in hand, both a State Press photographer and Banaszewski's girlfriend, Jennifer Root, shot photos of his act. Essentially, they were filming the filming. But an ASU IT supervisor quickly put a stop to that. He said University policy prohibits taking pictures inside the computing commons and cited fears of identity theft. "But isn't that strange?" asked Root, pointing to the monitors and surveillance cameras on the wall. "They're filming all over."

(Written by Ilan Brat and published in the 28 April 2004 issue of The State Press.)

Part of DPS 201-06: governing Electronic Safety and Security systems on campus:
Video and Alarm System Operating Responsibilities, Limitations, and Training

Entities installing or operating video surveillance systems, access control, property control, or alarm systems shall be responsible for requiring their operators to obtain training in their effective, legal, constitutional, and ethical use. CPU shall provide this training within 60 days of a request to do so.

Entities that use video surveillance systems are responsible for reviewing their own tapes. If illegal acts are detected on the video, the tape should be rewound to the specific area and brought to DPS to allow an officer to view it and determine whether to initiate a crime report.

Operators shall respect the reasonable expectation of privacy in all uses of video surveillance, including forensic video surveillance employed by PSD investigators. When ASU DPS investigators use video surveillance, only an ASU DPS sworn peace officer or certified police officer can view the tape.

All uses of video surveillance shall be in compliance with existing ASU policies, including those concerning nondiscrimination, nonharassment, and diversity.

Information and images obtained by video monitoring shall be used exclusively for law enforcement and security purposes. Information may be released for other purposes such as internal employee disciplinary action, CrimeAlert(TM) broadcasts to the public, and media releases only when authorized by the ASU DPS director/chief of police, his or her designee, or the Office of General Counsel.

Except when employed as a forensic tool by PSD, video surveillance shall be restricted to public areas and areas commonly used by university community groups. These include, but are not limited to, the following examples:

1. alleys, service drives, and streets
2. athletic fields
3. audience seating
4. cash handling facilities
5. dining facilities
6. hallways
7. laboratories
8. library interiors
9. loading docks
10. malls, sidewalks, and other pedestrian walkways
11. motor vehicle interiors
12. parking lots
13. retail establishments
14. rooftops
15. safes and
16. stadiums.

Except when specifically approved in writing by the ASU DPS director/chief of police or his or her designee, video surveillance installations shall not be approved in any of the following places:

1. individual dormitory rooms, without occupant's permission
2. public restroom toilet stalls
3. public restrooms with urinals
4. individual offices, without the occupant's permission or
5. locker or dressing rooms, where showering or disrobing is routine.

All surveillance must comply with applicable state and federal law. Persons conducting illegal surveillance are subject to felony prosecution, as well as university sanction, up to and including termination of employment or expulsion from ASU.

Appeal: Faculty, staff, or students whose work or studies are tied to an area for which the installation of video surveillance has been proposed or presently exists may petition to block or forego the installation or to remove existing video surveillance equipment upon the basis that an enhanced expectation of privacy may exist. Petitions may also be made for the addition of video surveillance, access control, or alarm systems. These petitions should first be made with the dean or director of the college or department employing such systems and then with the ASU DPS director/chief of police.

Notification: Except in applications of forensic video surveillance being clandestinely conducted by PSD, signs shall be displayed prominently in public areas covered by video surveillance, to wit:

This Area May Be Monitored by

Video surveillance warning signs shall be placed at or near each entrance to the places being monitored.

ASU to revamp camera policy

ASU will be reviewing and rewriting parts of its security camera policy regarding hundreds of surveillance cameras around campus starting this summer, the head of ASU's Department of Public Safety said Thursday. "Obviously we want the policy to be in line with the actual practice," said ASU police Cmdr. John Sutton. "Otherwise, it's not a viable policy if you don't have to follow it."

An article in Wednesday's The State Press [above] reported that surveillance cameras on ASU's campus don't comply with University policy regarding their use, that ASU DPS does not enforce its own rules and that there's no University-wide standardization for cameras. The article also reported there are no signs on campus notifying the public of their presence, which experts say defeats the deterrent effects of cameras. Civil liberties advocates said this type of pervasive surveillance on public space violates privacy rights and promotes a culture of fear. Wednesday's article prompted the policy review, Sutton said.

"It's a summer project," he continued. "We got to get a handle on what cameras are out there, who's got them, where they are, what they're being used for, how old they are -- those types of things." Sutton will be seeking input about the policy revisions, but could not specify from whom and how because it's too early in the policy-drafting process, he said.

Kyrsten Sinema, an ASU law student and chair of the Law School's pro bono chapter of the Arizona Civil Liberties Union, said she was pleased with the administration's response because it recognizes that community concerns about surveillance at ASU are legitimate. But she had concerns about who would be included in the process. "Sometimes people say, 'input,' and what they really mean is, 'You can send us an e-mail if you want to,'" Sinema said. "So I would just encourage them to ... understand that working meetings with actual input on actual policies drafted would be really helpful, like face-to-face, regular meetings where all the stakeholders are invited."

Sutton, who will be responsible for reviewing the policy, said he wasn't sure how the input process would work yet, including whether he would hold open meetings.

(Written by Ilan Brat and published in the 30 April 2004 issue of The State Press.)

Contact the Arizona Surveillance Camera Players

By e-mail Arizona SCP

By snail mail: Charles D. Banaszewski, Department of Theatre, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2002.

Home page of the

New York Surveillance Camera Players