Committee focused on increasing safety while respecting privacy

The University of Utah Surveillance System Administrator Committee (SSAC) was created in 2019 and is responsible for the implementation of procedures associated with building access and surveillance systems on campus, as well as completing an inventory of these systems. The committee and the procedures established are governed by policy 3-234. The committee is comprised of three faculty members, two students and staff whose work relates to public safety and facilities management at the U. They oversee the current surveillance inventory, prioritize the investment in new surveillance systems and make recommendations to improve building access.

"All the members of SSAC are committed to fostering a safe campus environment while respecting individual privacy," said Harriet Hopf, professor of anesthesiology and chair of the committee. "We want to engage the U community in conversations about security systems and explore the benefits and drawbacks from different perspectives."

The preliminary work of the SSAC involved inventorying all surveillance systems on campus and determined that investing in new surveillance systems and a building access system that enables automated lock downs should be prioritized.

"The U has unique security needs because it houses several buildings, such as hospitals and clinics, that require high-level access and surveillance," Hopf said. "The SSAC approved a procedure for the registration system for surveillance systems, which is being implemented across campus. We have two centrally administered systems on campus, and we have several individual systems. We have launched the registration audit program this year, adding users and systems to a centralized database, and, at the same time, have begun to provide annual training to systems' owners."

Privacy

The SSAC is committed to informing the U community about what data is collected through these systems and how it is used, stored and protected.

"The committee will confirm video surveillance is operated at the U to deter crime and assist in protecting the safety and property of the university’s community, while respecting and preserving individual privacy,” said Ryan Doyle, director of security and law enforcement technology and SSAC member. “At no time will video surveillance be operated to monitor individuals based on characteristics of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship or to infringe on an individual’s right to freedom of speech or assembly."

Some of the privacy precautions that authorized personnel will have to implement when accessing videos include blurring faces when downloading a video and never downloading videos to a personal device.

Standards and Priorities

To include the current systems in the new registration, the committee is working with Facilities Management, UIT and other campus stakeholders to identify existing systems operating independently of the campus central system. The team will conduct an audit of each of these systems to determine if the system is in compliance with the existing policy and will also include a recommendation as to the future administration and operation of the system.

"It is important that every surveillance and access system on our campus meet certain specifications and criteria aligned with industry standards and best practices," explained Doyle. "Through this assessment, every existing system that meets the standards will be registered and those that do not will be replaced."

 The group is currently in the discovery phase. Once it understands what is in place, it will provide recommendations for priorities and next steps.

"We anticipate a focus on areas with a history of incidents, such as past reports and concerns from a public safety perspective," Doyle said. "We’re also interested in areas with a high concentration of people, but we won’t be able to make specific recommendations until we have a clearer picture of our current status."

Areas with pedestrian traffic, parking lots and locations where camera equipment is out-to date or not operating correctly also will be prioritized.

In addition to surveillance and access control technology, the committee prefers to focus on crime prevention through environmental design and construction. Working with the U's Facilities Management Department, it is focused on setting standards in the landscape, Wi-Fi connection, and lighting to improve safety on campus.

Students, faculty, staff and visitors can bring their concerns or comments to the committee. The SSAC launched a form where the U community can report concerns about security and privacy.

Entities on campus that operate their own surveillance system can register now!

University Safety releases its first annual report

University of Utah Safety published its first annual report in March. The comprehensive document covers the department’s reorganization, administrative changes, and safety initiatives throughout 2020. It can be found online.

“2020 was a challenging year, but it also represented new beginning with the reorganization of University Safety,” said Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch. “These efforts were designed to increase capacity, improve accountability and transparency, and better meet the needs of the U community. I am honored to have been given the opportunity to prepare the foundation for safety efforts moving forward.”

In 2020, the U’s inaugural Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch restructured public safety functions at the university—adding new leadership throughout the organization and elevating and growing existing divisions. Instead of all units reporting through the chief of police, all divisions are now separate and report directly to the chief safety officer. These include U Health Security, Campus Security, Emergency Services, University Police and a newly created division called Community Services.

In addition to the five operational divisions, Lynch created a new, centralized administrative Office of the Chief Safety Officer, which is responsible for the department’s strategic initiatives, strategic communication and marketing, relationships with external public safety agencies, public safety committee management, community engagement and security and law enforcement technologies.

Highlights from the 2020 report

  • U safety launched a new five-year strategic plan, designed to guide safety efforts into the future and provide a foundation for the growing and evolving department.
  • U Police created a new position focused on community engagement to involve students and campus partners in safety-related events and educational projects.
  • Community Services supported 100+ victims, offering services in both English and Spanish.
  • In a partnership with the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the U, Emergency Management leveraged the Hope Corps internship program, incorporating students into the planning section of the Incident Management Team.
  • Campus Security performed 1,236 courtesy escorts on campus.
  • U Health Security trained 700+ clinical and non-clinical staff.

University of Utah breaks ground on new public safety building

Construction on the University of Utah’s new public safety building began in late February and remains on schedule to be completed at the end of the year.

The new one-story building will be located on 500 South, east of Guardsman Way. The structure has been designed to be all-electric to align with University campus-wide sustainability goals, and it will include an emergency generator and back-up systems to maintain emergency communication functions, data connectivity and building functionality to primary systems if an outage occurs.

“This new space will allow us to better serve the University of Utah community by offering community gathering space, private areas to support victims, workstations for student interns, and state-of-the-art technology to support the future of public safety,” said incoming Interim Chief Safety Officer Keith Squires. “We look forward to serving the community and working with them in this new space.”

The 24,000-square-foot building will be accompanied by a 2,500-square-foot ancillary/storage structure, as well as a secured parking area for public safety vehicles. The building will house the university's public safety functions in an environment designed specifically to support these functions. The Emergency Communications Center will have a state-of-the-art space to support emergency response and safety monitoring and a multi-purpose room will be used for trainings, meetings, and community functions and will provide flexible workspace during crisis events.

A designated suite within the building will serve victims and other parties in need of assistance, private interview rooms will be available, and a property and evidence room are designed to maintain the integrity of those processes.

This building is part of the University of Utah’s efforts to achieve accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. A 2018 independent review also identified a new or renovated public safety facility as one of 30 recommendations to improve campus safety. In early 2020, the Utah System of Higher Education Board of Regents approved plans for the new public safety building to replace the existing public safety facility, which was originally built in 1948. Currently, University Safety is housed in two buildings, both initially designed as military barracks.

Construction Impacts

  • A minor campus shuttle re-route through the Guardsman parking lot is expected during construction. Campus shuttles will still service the lot per posted schedules.
  • A sidewalk closure will occur along the south side of 500 S. during certain times of the construction. A new public entrance/exit driveway connecting to 500 S. into the Guardsman parking lot will be relocated further west.

Two coyotes spotted on campus this evening

Two coyotes spotted on campus this evening

[Saturday, March 6, 2021 | 9:15 pm]

Two coyotes were spotted on campus the evening of March 6, 2021, in active pursuit of a deer. University police officers responded to the area and confirmed the sighting. The animals were last seen leaving Officers Circle, heading toward Red Butte Canyon just after 8 p.m.

Those on campus or visiting the Red Butte Canyon area should be cautious and aware of their surroundings, especially if accompanied by pets.

More information about coyotes and safety tips are available through Wild Aware Utah at https://www.wildawareutah.org/wildlife/coyotes/. Wild Aware Utah recommends that individuals alert the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources office or call 911 if they have an encounter with an aggressive animal.

The following safety tips for hikers are relevant any time of year.

  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid distractions. Try to avoid isolated or dark areas. Hike in groups whenever you can—there is safety in numbers.
  • Pay attention to the trail and where you step.
  • Do not venture off designated trails.
  • Use GPS or physical maps to help you know where you’re going and how to leave.