Dining halls spend $100,000 on cameras

    Housing and Dining Services has installed upgraded cameras and implemented a new surveillance system in all six dining halls to reduce losses due to thefts, according to the department’s associate director, Brian Klippel.

    The new system, based on a model utilized by UCSD Bookstore, came as a result of complaints over grainy images and outdated equipment used by the facilities in the past, Klippel said. In addition to upgraded equipment, training and staff, the new model includes two field agents patrolling and monitoring video feeds and approximately 12 to 16 cameras in each dining hall.

    One of the main goals of the updated surveillance system, according to Klippel, is loss prevention. Housing and Dining Services loses approximately 4 percent of its revenue, or roughly $600,000, annually due to theft.

    As a result, the department must increase the room and board rate an average of $100 per student to defray the costs for a single academic year, according to Klippel. However, he said it is also too early to tell whether the new system is effectively minimizing theft.

    “It is our duty to manage [students’] money well,” Klippel said. “I don’t like to have to tell students their room and board rates are $100 higher because of theft.”

    The current surveillance equipment cost approximately $100,000, but if theft falls by a third — an estimated savings of $200,000 — it will cover equipment and operating costs for the first year, according to Klippel.

    In order to protect privacy, Klippel said each dining hall has made sure that customers know about the surveillance and that students and customers alike are allowed to see the video equipment if they choose.

    The department and UCSD Bookstore have entered into an open-ended contract, with the bookstore providing consulting, field agents, equipment installation, maintenance and video monitoring, according to UCSD Bookstore director John Turk.

    Bookstore loss prevention officers caught over 100 thieves last year. As a result, the bookstore was able to give approximately $5,000 in textbook discounts, Turk said.

    In a system identical to the one used by the bookstore, Housing and Dining services also uses a four-point process to track customers and verify payment for items, according to loss-prevention specialist Robert Meza.

    Prevention officers are able to detain all members of the academic community who are suspected of theft, Turk said. The bookstore then passes detainee jurisdiction to a student or public judicial process according to the detainee’s affiliation with the university and specific colleges, where charges can later be pressed.

    In some circumstances, a student can be arrested on site, such as if the merchandise totals more than $100, if the suspect is caught stealing or if the student is uncooperative or tries to escape, according to Meza.

    Sierra Summit manager Anthea Klein said the surveillance system is an “unfortunate necessity,” but that it will discourage the thieves and minimize theft.

    “I don’t want to worry about catching people stealing,” Klein said. “I just want to do my job, which is to make sure the food gets out and all the staff members are here and healthy.”

    Thurgood Marshall College freshman and OceanView Terrace employee Alex Liu said he welcomes another “pair of eyes.” Liu also said he doesn’t blame management for taking cautionary steps to minimize theft and losses.

    “The cameras are meant to catch people who decide to violate store policy,” Liu said. “If you’re just an ordinary customer, there’s no need to be paranoid about security cameras.”

    Readers can contact William Ching at [email protected].

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