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Cameras keep ‘eyes on’ campus emergency phones

A Talk-a-phone public emergency phone security device located on campus outside the Thomas building has a security camera on top of it. The university currently has 12 of these, with plans to have 35 total in the future.
A Talk-a-phone public emergency phone security device located on campus outside the Thomas building has a security camera on top of it. The university currently has 12 of these, with plans to have 35 total in the future. CDT photo

Penn State has begun putting cameras on some of the hundreds of emergency phones located across the campus for people to use if they are in danger.

The phones are on free-standing stanchions, in elevators and in parking decks. So far, nearly a dozen phone stations have been retrofitted with security cameras.

Director of Physical Security Scotty Eble said that when the emergency button on the phone is pushed, the campus police officer taking the call can bring up the video feed and gauge the situation.

“We can literally have eyes on the feed immediately,” Eble said. “We can view the person who made the call and the surrounding area to assess the threat.”

Eble said there are plans to bring the number of phones with cameras up to 30.

Freestanding emergency stanchions near the Information Sciences and Technology Building, Thomas Building, Beaver Stadium and the Arboretum already have been fitted with the cameras.

The cameras are on the underside of metal arms that extend over each phone box.

Eble said the cameras have “pan-tilt-zoom” capabilities, meaning they can rotate 360 degrees and zoom in up to 35 times.

“The cameras can automatically hone in on the person making the call,” Eble said. “They can also be rotated by the responding officer to assess the scene.”

The cameras are not routinely monitored and are used only for “selective live-viewing,” he said.

“The stanchions are located in well-lit public areas so that even just going toward one can keep you safer,” Eble said. “They are a good deterrent.

“People know that there will be immediate police response as soon as the phone is used.”

Cate Hansberry is a Penn State journalism student.

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