By mid-September, cameras will surround Baylor University’s main campus to improve the quality and speed of criminal investigations, according to the school’s top safety official.
More than 175 cameras will oversee Dutton Avenue, South Eighth Street, Bagby Avenue and University Parks Drive in the four-phase project.
The move is a piece of broad campus security efforts, said Mark Childers, associate vice president of public safety and security.
Prior to joining Baylor in 2014, Childers was an 18-year veteran of the Secret Service and eight-year veteran of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Childers protected President George W. Bush by coordinating security at his Crawford ranch and planning security on domestic and foreign trips. He said he once spent a month in Pakistan studying security locations before the president’s trip.
“We’re working everything from bicycle theft to anti-terrorism,” Childers said of his duties at Baylor. “We bring those Secret Service layers of protection and apply that to campus. I said, ‘Folks, if you think this is a retirement deal, it’s time to find a new job.’ ”
Video footage will not be monitored live but reviewed to assist in Baylor and Waco police investigations.
Childers said relationships with Waco police, the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office, the McLennan County District Attorney’s Office and surrounding agencies have improved since 2014.
“Baylor went from having OK relationships to really good, strong, proven relationships,” Childers said.
Renewed memorandums of understanding, threat assessment meetings and increased training have become the norm within the Baylor Department of Public Safety since the law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP conducted its investigation into how reports of sexual violence were handled from 2012 through 2015.
Top Baylor officials were given a previous wake-up call in 2014 by Margolis Healy, a leading firm that specializes in higher education safety, security and compliance.
Former Baylor President Ken Starr had touted the review within the university’s efforts to protect students.
The findings led to the replacement of then-Police Chief Jim Doak and the hires of Childers and Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford, who resigned last year amid a bitter public battle with the university.
Childers said the university has been “very supportive” of staff and expansion of resources in his department.
A technical security specialist position was another product of the Margolis Healy review, Childers said.
The first installations of cameras helped Baylor and Waco police catch several alleged bicycle thieves, he added.
More than 1,000 cameras will soon cover the 1,000-acre campus, and Baylor buildings utilize identification card readers and panic alarms.
Officials visited Yale University and Virginia Tech University in preparation for the installations.
“(Public safety) is that intense, a 24/7 strong forward lean,” said Childers, who added that he works harder at Baylor than he did in the Secret Service. “Always assessing and re-assessing what we’re doing. We can never stop and say, ‘We’ve made it.’ ”