The idea of 50 Bowdoin Security surveillance cameras constantly recording activity all over campus can be either comforting or unnerving.

With security cameras in and around just about every building on campus, it is fair to say that anywhere you go, you may be recorded.

Some people are keenly aware of these surveillance cameras and make a conscious effort to avoid being caught doing something illegal or embarrassing.

Others are only vaguely aware of their existence and become acutely paranoid about "Big Brother" watching them when they realize how often their actions are captured on camera.

The Bowdoin College campus is being watched by 50 CVC-GANZ high-resolution digital color cameras.

The system was installed five years ago by a company called Advance Technology.

All cameras, except for two, are digital recorders, which send recorded footage to a hard drive located in the communication center. The hard drive can hold up to five weeks worth of data.

Digital cameras are generally thought to be better than regular cameras, which record data onto video tapes, for many reasons. Most simply, a hard drive can store more video footage than a tape. Security is now in the process of upgrading the only non-digital cameras left on campus: one in the Bowdoin Bookstore and one in the Bowdoin Express Store (the "C-Store").

Randy Nichols, Bowdoin's new director of safety and security, a 27-year veteran of the Maine State Police, has been with Bowdoin for more than two months now.

Nichols said that he is "absolutely, tirelessly dedicated to safety of the Bowdoin Community" and that security's surveillance cameras help make the school more safe.

Nichols stated that the cameras have been "an invaluable tool" when it comes to solving campus crimes. The cameras have assisted in solving at least a half dozen crimes within the last two months. He insists that the cameras are not used as a monitoring device but rather as an investigative tool.

"We are not Big Brother, watching over every move that people are making," Nichols said.

In fact, he pointed out, not all of the cameras can even be monitored at the same time. They are watched in clusters by a security officer on duty in the communication center.

Often video data recorded is reviewed after a crime has been committed. When the time and place of a crime is confirmed, the digital images are recalled and reviewed. Officers retrieve clear and crisp images that can be enhanced and enlarged to help identify suspects.

The cameras work not only in identifying criminal suspects, but also in deterring crime. One Bowdoin student who asked to remain unnamed is cautious around cameras.

"I'm always aware of the cameras, but I've never been caught doing anything. They have definitely stopped me from doing something stupid. I think they are quite obviously placed, so in places on campus that I don't see them, I just assume that they are there and I'm careful not to do anything against the rules."

Nichols said that the cameras are not necessarily hidden but are "fairly unobtrusive."

It is easy to feel comfortable around them, he added, because they "become such a normal part of the environment."

According to Nicholas, the Bowdoin community has nothing to worry or be paranoid about when it comes to the surveillance cameras as "99 percent of the time there is nothing there [for the cameras] to see." The cameras generally work as a deterrent. When people know about them, they are less likely to commit crimes because they know someone could be watching them.

On the flip-side, because the security cameras are useful only after a crime has been committed, Nichols advises that Bowdoin students not travel alone, especially at night. He suggests that students call Safe Ride and remain alert.

He points out that the College does not have cameras facing the perimeter of our campus, meaning that off-campus housing, Maine Street, College Street, Federal Street and Harpswell Road are not monitored. "Bowdoin is safe?wonderfully safe. However things do happen," he said.

To learn more about the security's surveillance cameras or other related topics, students can tune in to "Listen! The Safety and Security Show" on Thursdays 3-4:30 p.m., hosted by Nichols and Assistant Director of Security Mike Brown on WBOR 91.1FM. In addition to tackling important security issues, they play an eclectic collection of music and interview Bowdoin bands.