By Juan Calvillo
East Los Angeles College has over 400 functioning security cameras throughout the campus, with a majority of them being digital in quality.
With the fall season starting and day turning to night sooner, the idea of safety is paramount. Not having a satisfying answer to whether or not a security camera system is working can be frustrating for students.
The functionality of the security system at ELAC was in question after the 2019 Associated Student Union elections were marred by vandalism of one of the candidates election posters. Anthony Dominguez, from the ASU, said a request was made for camera footage of the incident, but was told that access could not be given.
During the election incident, Sheriff Deputy Elizabeth Elias said that the sheriff’s department was approached by Dean Sonia Lopez of ASU. Lopez asked for the help of the sheriff’s department in obtaining footage of the incident. Elias said that despite having rough estimates on the time frame of the incident, the footage could not be found.
Nghi Nghiem, associate Vice President of administrative services, said that the procedure for acquiring footage from the security system must start with a request that is made by the sheriff’s department to the Information Technology department. “When I spoke to my technician last week, he informed me that he wasn’t able to locate the footage because it had past the retention period,” said Nghiem.
As of right now, the retention period for video footage from the campus security cameras is about a week due to the limited hard drive space for the system. The system records, then when it reaches its limit, it begins to record over the oldest footage and the cycle begins again.
Nghiem said that the ELAC campus has more cameras than most colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District, and that there are no decoy cameras on campus. Nghiem said that the campus is almost entirely covered by digital cameras that allow for much clearer pictures. He said that only one building still has analog cameras, but that it is a tiny percentage of cameras compared to number of digital cameras.
Nghiem clarified that if a student looks up and sees a camera, then they are being recorded despite the type of camera. He also said that the cameras are not there to monitor students.
Nghiem said that like all equipment, sometimes the cameras may go down. Maintenance is started as soon as a report of a down camera is given. The camera system is not monitored consistently enough to know when a camera may be down. This is why a service request is usually how down cameras are addressed. He added that at times the cameras are susceptible to the outside environment causing blurry or hindered quality and that is when maintenance must address the situation.
Nghiem said that the department roughly cheacks cameras at least every month by “pinging” the IP addresses of the cameras. All cameras are on an internal server that can’t be accessed from the outside. This program checks to make sure that the camera system is working or if it needs to be addressed.
“I tell my team that at least once a month, you need to go ahead and run the pinging to make sure that everybody is talking back to us,” said Nghiem. This preventative maintenance coupled with reports of cameras not working are key to keeping the system working.
Myeshia Armstrong, Vice President of administrative services, said that the number of cameras on campus also needs to be taken into account. Having such a high number allows for multiple points of view.