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University of Florida to Spend Millions on Tech Security

The Gainesville campus plans to invest $30 million in technology that will include installing 1,700 surveillance cameras, new lighting, license plate readers at 20 campus entry points, and building-access controls.

by Daniel Smithson, The Gainesville Sun / June 27, 2019

(TNS) — Editor's note: The online version of this story was changed to correct the number of rapes reported to University of Florida police in 2017.

The University of Florida plans to spend $30 million over the next five years to bolster campus security.

Curtis Reynolds, UF vice president of business affairs, said the $30 million safety plan will include the installation of 1,700 surveillance cameras around campus, new lighting, license plate readers at 20 campus entry points, and fortified building-access controls.

Some of the money will go toward adding additional certified police officers to the University Police Department. About $20 million will go toward a new police building, which was in the early design stages as of Wednesday.

UF police did not make law enforcement staff available for an interview Wednesday, and instead deferred media inquiries to the UF Department of Business Affairs.

Reynolds said the security cameras, which will be strategically placed across campus, are designed to deter criminal acts while providing reliable surveillance evidence for police when crimes do occur. UF has 900 cameras already, so 1,700 new cameras would more than double the number of cameras on campus.

Heavily populated student areas like fraternity and sorority row could also get an increase in surveillance cameras, he said. Medical, health science, and athletic buildings, among others, walkways and some roadways will get more cameras, he said.

Increased lighting is already in the works and can be noticed on the campus at night, he said. UF is encouraging faculty, staff and students to walk on well-lit pathways at night, he said.

New license plate readers could be used as evidence to track down suspects when crimes occur. The campus safety plan also includes improved key-card access technology at 116 buildings, which equates to 2,400 access points that require a key card or other entry method, Reynolds said.

UF will hire five new police officers within the next year, Reynolds said, boosting UPD's force from 89 to 94 certified officers. UF officials plan to spend $600,000 within the next year on new staff and security.

The new 35,000-square-foot police station could break ground next year, Reynolds said. At a recent UF board of trustees meeting, he said the new facility will maximize public accessibility and police visibility, as well as increase police response time to campus-area crimes.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement recently released crime statistics for 2018 that show UPD's clearance rate in 2018 ranked the lowest among county law enforcement agencies.

Of 400 crimes committed at UF last year, only about 18 campus crime cases were closed out with charges filed per 100 crimes committed. Crime on campus, while relatively low, was up 19 percent in 2018.

Larceny (311) made up the majority of the 400 reported crimes. UPD responded to seven rapes in 2018, up from five in 2017.

In a story published Tuesday about recent crime statistics, Capt. Darren Baxley said it's likely more rapes are occurring on campus but not being reported. Most are probably acquaintance rapes and, in some cases, students will use other rape reporting methods instead of filing a case with police.

Baxley downplayed the 19 percent increase, saying campus crime numbers have fluctuated the past few years. He added that UF has relatively little crime so a small increase in any category can skew the percentage upward.

Reynolds said the enhanced security is not in response to any criminal activity on UF's campus. He had not seen the latest crime statistics Wednesday afternoon.

"I'm not aware or prepared to respond to (the statistics)," Reynolds said. "We have always desired to have a relatively safe campus, but there's no way to guarantee no crime at all. These enhancements were proposed to benefit and deter the number of crimes on campus."

UPD Chief Linda Stump-Kurnick said at the June 6 board of trustees meeting she was satisfied with the campus safety plan but was ready for the funding to come in. She was not available for comment Wednesday.

©2019 The Gainesville Sun, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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