Sac State awarded grant to increase security on campus

Imran Majid

In an ongoing effort to acquire working leads on cases, the Sacramento State Police Department will soon upgrade its video surveillance with a $20,500 grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

The Homeland Security Grant Program, launched shortly after 9/11 to assist police departments across the U.S. with upgrading their systems such as communications and infrastructure, was applied for by Sac State in 2010, and the school was officially awarded the grant in March.

“Homeland Security grants are designed to provide some type of infrastructure that will help secure various areas of local agencies,” Sac State Police Chief Mark Iwasa said. “In our case, additional video surveillance equipment is what we requested. As you saw in the recent Boston (Marathon) bombings, that type of equipment is extremely valuable.”

Iwasa said the upgrade will allow more complete coverage in areas lacking on campus and in low-light and night situations.

“There (are) people who don’t want to be seen,” Iwasa said. “They try to come here and do their thing when people are gone and there (are) no eyes on them. A video surveillance system is definitely helpful in those circumstances.”

Nate Johnson, the California State University Chief Law Enforcement Officer, said each school within the CSU system applied for the grant, and the system collected their proposals for submission.

Each school was asked to upgrade its critical infrastructure, including camera systems, emergency notification towers and mobile vehicle computers, by submitting a proposal explaining its request.  

“In the larger scheme of things, it’s not a lot of money but it really does help some of the smaller campuses buy some of the equipment and stuff they need just (for) things like operation and (communication) with other agencies,” Johnson said.

While Johnson said the grant is helpful in a time where state budgets are tight and the need still exists, the CSU was denied the grant in 2011 due to federal budget cuts.

Johnson said the system is currently unsure of the future but expects further cuts, and will possibly make campus security a system-wide issue rather than a per individual campus program.

Iwasa said Sac State is one of the safest campuses within the CSU system due to its advanced security system, awareness of the campus community and split-staffing model of community service and police officers.

 Several Sac State students said they feel safe in most situations.

 “I had a night class a couple of semesters ago and it’s always scary walking (at) 8 o’clock to your car, but I’ve never felt worried,” said senior speech pathology major Kayla Tippin.

Tippin became somewhat fearful once when sitting in her car with the window rolled down. An unidentified stranger came from afar and appeared not to realize at first she was inside and was possibly looking to steal.

She said more cameras might help catch suspects and reduce crime in parking lots and halls.

Senior business major Gabriel Vasquez said he is concerned about his bike, but overall feels safe. Vasquez said he rates Sac State a “nine out of 10” for safety.

“Personally I don’t feel I’m not safe,” Vasquez said. “I’ve heard that it’s just bad at night and not so much during the day. But if you leave your bike here overnight something could happen to it.”

Iwasa said the upgrade will allow the placement of cameras in areas where suspect vehicle information can be obtained, and he used the April 14 robbery in Parking Lot 7 as an example where extra cameras may have helped.

“For ourselves, having the funding to be able to upgrade our systems and provide more complete coverage is what we were trying to do,” Iwasa said. “Even though it doesn’t completely provide all the best views, it certainly does help.”