URBANA -- The University of Illinois had 13 surveillance cameras on its Urbana-Champaign campus in 2008. Five years later that number is at 900 with police saying they hope to increase it to 1,100 by the end of the year.
"It has always been our intention to try to cover as much of the campus as we can," UI police Detective Tim Hetrick, who leads the department's security camera project, told The News-Gazette. "The cameras help us to solve reported crimes that couldn't be solved any other way."
The first cameras went up in 2008 to prevent theft at food storage facilities. The next year Hetrick said the chancellor's office gave police more money to pay for 18 exterior cameras in areas that police believe criminals frequented.
"Since then our use of cameras has grown incredibly," he said.
The school had 200 cameras in 2009, 400 in 2010 and 650 in 2011.
The university has spent more than $2 million on cameras since 2008 and the cameras cost between $300 and $3,000 each, Hetrick said. Campus police have worked with Champaign and Urbana police department crime analysts to decide where to place the surveillance cameras.
The cameras have helped police with a robbery outside a campus coffee shop, an arson fire in a trash bin and thefts at the school's Activities and Recreation Center. Cameras were put up in university libraries after DVDs were reported stolen.
Images from the hundreds of cameras are sent to a campus database where they are stored for at least 30 days.
The cameras are only used for police purposes, Hetrick said.
"We have a policy that is very cut and dried about what we can and cannot do," Hetrick said. "For example, the cameras can't be used by human resources to check when employees come to work, and the cameras can't be used to look inside windows. They are for crime."