Caught on camera

Interns Cody Bauer, left, and Omar Urbano-Rendon monitor Greek Row surveillance cameras on Nov. 11. for potentially dangerous situations.

Though the cameras on the streets of Greek Row are often perceived as signs of “Big Brother,” police say their main focus is public safety.

After the first 48 hours of the cameras being installed, Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins said they were able to find and arrest an assault aggressor. Within the first two months, the cameras captured the assault of WSU instructor David Warner, who suffered permanent brain damage after an assault outside a bar. Police made arrests based off the footage from that night.

There are five cameras located along the perimeter of the Adams Mall: One is located in Domino’s, one is located halfway down the Colorado Street block between Ruby Street and Monroe Street, one on the corner of Ruby Street and Monroe Street, one in the middle of Ruby Street and one in the parking lot behind Jimmy John’s.

Criminal justice professor David Makin heads the surveillance system and runs an internship program for students to monitor Adams Mall on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. The cameras were implemented in 2012 from a $300,000 grant and became operational in 2013.

“What we do in this internship is look for anything that might be considered a potential threat,” said intern Chase Rall. “Whether that be an argument that may lead to a potential fight, someone who may possibly get alcohol poisoning, by observing their demeanor and if they cannot physically or mentally walk themselves home.”

Pullman Police Officer T.J. Cornish trains the interns on what signs of immediate dangers to look for and what to report.

Makin said the students call in before the situation gets too serious and have been able to capture multiple instances of assaults and alcohol poisonings.

“It allows us to get more to the facts almost immediately,” Makin said.

Even so, Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said the cameras are not without their problems. During the fight at Domino’s involving WSU football player Shalom Luani in August, the store’s camera had positioning issues. It was able to capture the first punch by Luani but not what occurred outside afterward. Prosecutors decided not to convict Luani due to the lack of footage outside of Domino’s.

He said they have also had internet connection issues and are working on hiring an agency to fix them within a month or two. Currently, however, they have no money left in the grant to add any additional cameras.

Despite the issues, WSU Research conducted a survey that showed an increase in safety on Greek Row since the cameras were installed.

“I really believe that we can address these issues,” Makin said. “It’s not a technological panacea, which is to say that putting the cameras is not going to solve the problem but they can be part of the overall solution.”