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updated: 8/11/2014 8:08 PM

University of Illinois proposes off-campus cameras

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Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- City council members in Champaign are considering a proposal from the University of Illinois to expand its network of surveillance cameras off campus and onto city streets.

If approved, the effort would be the first time the university has installed security cameras on property it doesn't own. University Police Chief Jeff Christensen said adding more cameras where students congregate would help his department and city law enforcement.

"Since our students travel, socialize, live in those areas, we would like to expand that network to provide that area with the safety aspect that has worked so far," Christensen told The News-Gazette in Champaign

Footage from the school's 1,088-camera network helped solve 15 investigations from August 2012 to September 2013 and provided evidence in another six cases, the campus police chief said.

In one notable case, a registered sex offender was arrested last year after being identified on surveillance video as the attacker of a female student. The attacker was later convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Leading up to the university's initial installation of surveillance cameras in 2008, Christensen said, police worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to develop a policy to meet concerns about personal privacy and individual rights. He said complaints have been "very, very infrequent."

The Champaign City Council plans to hold its first public discussion on the matter during a study session Tuesday.

The university wants to phase in off-campus cameras starting with a control box at Sixth and John streets that could later connect cameras along Green Street, a high-traffic corridor. Other streets and intersections could be added later based on crime levels and traffic.

"We want to put them where they're going to be effective," Christensen said. "Cameras everywhere (are) not going to be effective."

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