STLCC Completing Security Upgrades throughout District
During a 30-year career, Lt. William Ozmec has his fair share of stories as a police officer having served in three states and several jurisdictions. Now, as the lead officer at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, he wants his tales to center around something more positive.
“My passion is for the students,” said Ozmec, who has been at Forest Park for two years and with STLCC for 10. “I’m here for them to get a higher education and get it safely.”
The College is making it easier for its police officers to do just that. Work has been happening for months to upgrade security cameras, which are not monitored 24/7 but rather used as a tool to help determine what happened and who was involved in an incident. Call boxes, which allow for direct contact with campus police, are also being upgraded.
Corporate College and Wildwood are the farthest along with workers putting on the finishing. Upgrades at William J. Harrison Education Center and South County should be finished by the end of September.
While work has also started at the Forest Park parking garage – each of the three floors will get a camera and a call box – the bulk of the Florissant Valley, Forest Park and Meramec campuses fall into the final phase of the District’s security upgrade. Officials plan site visits later this month to determine the needs of each campus, including the best locations for cameras and call boxes.
While a start date hasn’t been established, the goal is to finish the project by the end of the 2021-22 academic year.
“As we make these improvements in safety technology, it’s always with the interests of students in mind,” said Feleccia Moore-Davis, Ph.D., president of STLCC-Meramec. “Everything we do is to support students and remove barriers for them, so making sure they are in a secure environment is very important.”
The upgrades from current cameras, some of which were installed more than 20 years ago, provide several advantages.
The high-definition images from the new equipment provide both clearer images and views from a greater distance. The College can maintain the technology in-house and won’t necessarily need to wait for a vendor if a need arises. Also, some of the new cameras have 360-degree or fish-eye lenses that can capture images with a wider angle, which provides better coverage.
The new technology also limits reduces the number of cameras needed. When it might have taken two cameras with the current equipment to cover a parking lot, one of the new units could possibly handle the entire area.
The new call boxes also provide benefits.
Most importantly, the technology protects the system from possible hacking from outside agents. Also, the current version is radio based, meaning the connection might not always be great quality. The new system uses Voice over Internet Protocol, allowing calls to go directly in the College’s central dispatch as well as get recorded.
Other benefits include the blue lights on each unit will be LED, making them brighter and easier to locate. Finally, the new boxes can relay the location of the call to the dispatcher in case a person doesn’t know where they are or can’t talk. Police can still respond to that box.
“We have a system out there that needs some upgrades,” said Capt. Ben Talley of the College’s police department. “We’re finally able to move forward with these. There’s a lot of good things that are occurring on this to make sure the District is safe and secure.”
Plans for upgrades have existed for some time but STLCC got a boost with COVID19 relief money. Part of it allowed the District to use a portion for campus security with nearly 53% of the cost of the improvements coming from relief funds.
With the regular compliment of officers working at one time at Forest Park, covering the whole school can present a challenge. The new equipment will help Ozmec and his officers better cover the 36-acre campus.
“It allows officers to expedite response time in emergency situations,” Ozmec said.