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Lawmakers give UNM $125K to beef up security measures

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico duck pond will be a little brighter at night – so will some parking lots and other spots around the Albuquerque campus.

A student-led push at the Legislature netted $125,801 in capital outlay funds for the new lights, which could start coming this summer. That’s on top of $500,000 UNM will funnel into security cameras and lighting in each of the next six years and other safety investments like a new security operations director inside the UNM Police Department.

The moves come as UNM continues grappling with concerns about property crime and other safety issues. Campus auto theft, for example, has soared in recent years, mirroring citywide trends. Students lobbied lawmakers for lighting help during the 2018 legislative session. The funds – about $45,000 more than they originally sought – will help illuminate the duck pond, the corner of Central and Girard, the resident parking lot and the courtyard by the residence halls, according to the Associated Students of UNM.

“Since I’ve been at UNM, I’ve heard students give complaints about the campus feeling unsafe,” ASUNM President Noah Brooks told the Board of Regents at last month’s budget summit.

Brooks threw his support behind a 2018-19 tuition hike in part because UNM would use some of the new revenue for safety measures.

That includes the new security director within UNMPD, an idea that emerged from a campus task force established a few years ago to address various building security issues.

UNMPD Chief Kevin McCabe said the civilian position will help “institutionalize” UNM’s security approach, coordinating what have sometimes been disjointed security endeavors undertaken by individual divisions across campus. The director would have know-how in surveillance, door access control, and building design and construction.

McCabe said there are already a few hundred cameras across campus.

In addition, UNMPD launched a camera-based surveillance pilot program on South Campus during the most recent football and basketball seasons, which McCabe said helped curb thefts. He said it will serve as a platform upon which to build a more comprehensive system, and that UNM is exploring the costs of expanding it to other UNM parking lots. It allows for simple recording or real-time monitoring for special operations.

“It doesn’t mean (the cameras would go up) overnight. There’s obviously budget concerns and financing, but I think we’re in a good spot (to start),” he said.

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