Blue lights to have cameras
The campus blue light system is undergoing changes to make lights more visible and reliable, said Public Safety Chief Michael McNair.
A total of 25 new blue light phone systems are being installed all over campus, McNair said. These lights will be located near the old ones, which will be removed once all the new lights are installed.
McNair said the new phones, which will be installed by Oct. 31, will feature keypads for non-emergency calls. The blue lights will also have surveillance cameras, which will cover most of campus with their range of vision.
"Generally, if you can see the phone, then the camera can see you," McNair said. "The cameras will significantly improve Public Safety's ability to patrol the campus."
The cameras will be fully installed by Dec. 31, McNair said.
JoAnna Smith, director of Women's Initiative, said the group has been pushing for a new system for two years.
"The problem was that the radios were one-way," Smith said. "People would press the button and talk, and Public Safety wouldn't be able to talk back. People thought the lights didn't work."
Now the lights will feature two-way radios and be three feet taller to aid in visibility. "People just feel safer," Smith said, regarding the lights' better visibility. "Women were concerned they couldn't run fast enough to find a light. They're a comfort."
Samantha Elliot, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she thought the new cameras are "creepy" but can still be helpful.
"I always felt like I wouldn't stop at a blue light if someone was having a heart attack or something, but now that they can see where you are and what's going on, Public Safety might be better prepared to respond to my problems," she said.
Kim Dawson, a senior in CAS, said she wondered what the cameras would catch.
"I guess people could get into more trouble," she said.
While the lights are supported by Women's Initiative because they are effective in defending against sexual predators, Public Safety Sgt. Maurice Carter said the blue lights are more often used to make service calls to Public Safety.
"If someone gets in a car accident or needs to jump start a car, they can use the blue lights to call Public Safety," Carter said.
Blue light calls average around 15 per month, and most of those are service calls, Carter said.
Despite the fact that the blue lights aren't often used for defensive purposes, McNair is happy to make the AU community feel safer.
"Emergency phones are like spare tires on a car," he said. "You don't use them very often, but when you need them, you are glad they are readily available and work"