New emergency phones include security cameras

Local News

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Police say the campus is slowly getting a safety upgrade. New emergency telephone kiosks will come with security cameras on top of them.

Authorities have said surveillance cameras could be the reason Yingying Zhang’s accused kidnapper Brendt Christensen was quickly identified. At the place where Zhang was last seen on June 9, an emergency phone is only steps away from where she got into a black Saturn Astra.

“They show you them when you tour the campus before you come here,” says student Naya Mitchell. “They’re like, ‘Oooh, look what we’ve got.'”

They’ve got more than many students even realize: 675.

“Oh my gosh, really?” freshman Samantha Smith said. “Well that makes me feel incredibly safe!”

“I don’t think that they’re particularly advertised, or helpful, but they’re there, if somebody needs them,” says grad student Page Daniels.

Students do need them, just not often as a substitute for calling 911.

“They get used almost every day, it seems like, but usually not for emergency situations,” says UI Police Lieutenant Joan Fiesta. 

She says the phones connect directly to their headquarters, where students ask for directions, safe rides or walks, or help with working through a mental health crisis.

“What we found through that is, people like the sense of security of having the phone there,” Fiesta says.

When cameras are added to the kiosks, it could add to that sense of security.

“I think it may just so we get a better idea of the situation,” says Smith. “It would kind of depend if the recordings could be live, or if we could come see the feed after something had happened.”

Right now, only a handful of emergency phone kiosks have cameras but, as older models are replaced with newer ones, that’ll change.

The UI has been installing about 200 new security cameras each year. They’re up to about 1,600 now. If every emergency phone kiosk had a camera on top of it, there would be more than 2,200 cameras keeping an eye on campus.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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