Mayfest 2017

Inside the Department of Public Safety’s intricate Mayfest security apparatus

Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor

Students gathered in Walnut Park on Friday afternoon for food and music. DPS and SPD utilized cameras and on-foot patrols to monitor the crowds.

Syracuse University Department of Public Safety employee Alex Lynch trained a surveillance camera in the lobby of DellPlain Hall during Mayfest on Friday. The circular camera, which viewed the lobby from the ceiling, could move 360 degrees. A red indicator in the top left corner of the screen showed where the camera was facing. Swiping a computer mouse changed the view.

DPS had received a call that a bathroom door had been locked for an irregular amount of time. The emergency call triggered suspicion that someone may be in the bathroom and might be unresponsive. The cameras watched as the Syracuse Fire Department entered DellPlain and headed for the bathroom.

Because a key entry wasn’t immediately available, the fire department had to take the door off. As the firefighters exited the camera’s view, DPS commander Andrew Mrozienski and SFD Deputy Chief Paul Cousins traded stories about having to take doors off to get to people in past jobs.

“Do they really know there’s someone in there?” someone sitting in the room asked.

“There’s someone in there,” another fired back.

Eventually, a message came back: No one had been in the bathroom.

On a television at the head of a conference room in the DPS headquarters, 10 camera views populated the fringes of the screen. One large view dominated the majority of the screen. During Mayfest and Block Party, DPS used the cameras to monitor students for safety purposes.

As calls came in, Lynch used a mouse to find the right view. Some of the cameras had pan, tilt and zoom capabilities, which allowed DPS to expand its views of Walnut Park. SU has at least 1,100 cameras across campus and at least 1,200 camera views.

Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor

Planning began between three and four months before Friday’s events. Those involved in planning partnered with the National Weather Service to get up-to-date information about weather patterns and started tracking weather the Sunday before Mayfest. DPS deployed 28 officers and the Syracuse Police Department deployed some as well to handle the influx of students to Walnut Park. All of them operated over the same radio channel.

At 11 a.m., DPS representatives and other key members from the city and campus community met to monitor Walnut Park. Lynch, Cousins, Mrozienski, emergency management manager Joe Hernon, SU News Services manager Keith Kobland, two Syracuse University Ambulance representatives and another member of the university’s emergency management team sat in the conference room.

The conference room sits next to the Emergency Communications Center, where there are four stations for dispatchers to take emergency calls. In the hour The Daily Orange viewed DPS’ Mayfest and Block Party operations, all four were occupied at times and taking calls. A sliding glass door had been pulled back to allow communication between the center and the conference room.

The conference room had a mini-fridge stocked with Nestle Pure Life waters, three Sbarro pizza boxes and a foil pan of salad. On another table, Styrofoam cups were stacked next to coffee. In the middle of the table, a Dunkin Donuts box had mostly been emptied, except for a bagel and a donut. In a window that looked into a DPS hallway, a map of South Campus hung. Several stapled packets labeled “Mayfest Command Post” were spread around the table.

The cameras are just part of DPS’ policing efforts on Mayfest and Block Party. Because SU has no off-campus cameras, DPS and SPD deployed foot and car patrols on Euclid Avenue and streets that flow from it.

Colin Davy | Asst. Photo Editor

Lynch has worked with the Student Association and university-area landlords to get funding for a proposed off-campus camera system. The first phase would include cameras spread throughout the university-area neighborhood, but the plan still has to be approved by the Syracuse Common Council. Footage from those cameras would not belong to or be monitored by the university, though.

During lulls, the room abandoned the cameras and typed on their computers or talked over the phone. Lynch often trained the cameras on various tents in Walnut Park. At one point, he panned the camera and stopped as people congregated on Walnut Avenue. Street preacher Jim Deferio wore a sign that read “Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” Typically, he hands out pamphlets near Marshall Street. But on Mayfest, students surrounded him to take pictures. He took several before they dispersed.

“No one’s taking pamphlets,” one of the SUA representatives cracked.

Earlier in the afternoon, Kobland mentioned that a television reporter would be standing on the corner of Marshall Street and Walnut Avenue. He wanted to check to make sure the reporter was taken care of while he covered Mayfest. Lynch picked a bird’s-eye view from atop a building, zoomed and panned the camera to the across street. He zoomed in until the camera focused only on the reporter and his cameraman as they set up their own camera.

As Mayfest wound down and it moved closer to Block Party, one of the SUA representatives took down more information from a tent inside Mayfest.

By 4:40 p.m., the tent had evaluated seven people and sent three to the hospital. Around 5 p.m., the SUA representative received more numbers: 10 people had been evaluated and five had been sent to the hospital. An assistant tracked all calls that originated from outside Walnut Park.

Not long after Kobland and the room checked on the reporter, he started to pack up his computer, headphones and other materials.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go down and experience it in person?” Kobland asked Hernon, as Kobland left.

The two cracked a few jokes about not being able to get beers because the tent handing them out had closed at 4 p.m. before Hernon said, “I’ll get the Block Party experience soon.”

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