Residents use webcam to promote dorm safety

Monica Spees

The WKU administration strives to squelch crime on campus. The police regularly patrol the campus. Security cameras are at residence hall doors and scattered around other buildings, and call boxes á la Kmart blue-light special dot the grounds.

But Covington freshman Taylor Averdick said he didn’t think this was enough.

Averdick and his roommate, Covington freshman Mitchell Wood, said they heard about several break-ins in Keen Hall, where they live, and then one of their friends got his MacBook stolen. But it was after someone tore down memes against Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) and Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) decorating Averdick and Wood’s door that the roommates said they decided to take action.

“We were just kind of like, ‘Let’s do something,’” Wood said.

Averdick, a computer science major, said he had the idea to rig up a security camera of sorts. After finishing the makeshift dorm security system, Averdick filmed it and posted it to YouTube. The video shows a cord going from his computer, taped to the wall and the ceiling, to his door, where a webcam is taped over the peephole.

Averdick said he programmed the camera to only record detected motion. After two weeks, the roommates said the footage mostly consisted of about 500 three-second clips of people walking by their door. All the clips amounted to about 3.5 gigabytes.

Louisville freshman Nick Per, the men’s friend whose MacBook was stolen from his room while he was sleeping, said he saw some of the footage after Averdick and Wood told him about their security system.

“It’s really weird what people will do at four in the morning, running around the dorm,” Per said.

“We’d have people come by and flash it,” Wood said. “Typical college people behavior.”

Despite what Per called Averdick’s “tech-savvy” ways, Averdick said he knew he wasn’t preventing his room from getting broken into.

“I didn’t think it would keep people out of our room,” Averdick said. “But if someone did break into our room, we could find out who it was. After a few days, it became a handy little tool to find out who was knocking on our door.”

Averdick and Wood also admitted their biggest motivation for setting up the webcam in the first place was to find who had ripped down their door decorations.

Even if their camera couldn’t prevent break-ins, Per said he thought Averdick and Wood’s idea was “pretty extravagant.”

“I thought it was one of the best ideas I’d ever seen,” Per said.

After two weeks, the roommates’ resident assistant heard they were monitoring other students in a residential area and asked them to take down the webcam, telling them it was an invasion of privacy.

Although the roommates said they had fun with their technology, Wood said he didn’t think it was practical.

“If someone’s acting weird, it’d be easier to just keep an eye on it,” Wood said.

Per said he has friends who leave their doors unlocked, and he also said everyone should do a better job of looking out for themselves and their belongings.

“Everyone thinks it’s never going to happen to them,” Per said. “But I didn’t think it was going to happen to me. People need to be more aware of what’s going on on campus and be aware that not everyone is a good person here.”