One of the original Lehigh University Police Department blue lights sits on campus. The old blue lights will be replaced with new blue lights, which will feature security cameras and wireless access points. (Roushi Chen/B&W Staff)

Blue light towers updated across campus


The Lehigh University Police Department and Library Technology Services are replacing the currently-installed blue light towers and call boxes across campus with towers containing security cameras and wireless access points. 

This project will continue through 2025.

The blue light system provides students with immediate access to LUPD when the button on tower is pressed. Emergency services can then be dispatched to the call tower’s location.

Jason Schiffer, LUPD’s chief of police, said Lehigh was an early adopter of the blue light system in the late 1980s. 

Now, the existing call boxes are part of an aging infrastructure from a time before cell phones.

“You’ll notice a lot of those call boxes will have a traditional phone keypad on them,” Schiffer said. “That phone system was not only used for people to call for assistance. A person could also call an individual dorm room from one of those phones.”

He said the new towers will replace older call boxes and will be easier to maintain and update. While the number of call towers will be reduced, Schiffer said the system will be more accessible. 

The newest call towers are being built in Farrington Square and along Packer Avenue.

“Wherever you would walk around campus, you should be able to see a place where you can summon help,” Schiffer said.

Jim Monek, the director of technology infrastructure and operations for Library and Technology Services, said the locations of the new call towers were chosen to increase their visibility and accessibility.

Monek also said the existing phone network is being re-run through the call towers’ cabling. This cabling allows LTS to install additional technologies on the tower, such as security cameras.

“LUPD can place the cameras up so they can see bigger surveillance,” Monek said. “Especially if somebody pushes the button. They can see right away if there’s something going on.”

The new towers will also have wireless access points. Monek said this will improve Wi-Fi coverage in outdoor spaces across campus and expand the accessibility of the HawkWatch app.

Schiffer said using the app as a direct link to LUPD is another important safety feature on campus. 

“The areas that have concentrations of students, especially if they’re going to be at night, in a location waiting for a bus, we want to make sure they’re as safe as possible,” he said.

Schiffer said LUPD receives an average of five alerts from call towers per week. When someone uses a call tower, a dispatcher in the campus police station quickly responds and provides them with appropriate resources.

“It’s not just for that high-level type of emergency,” Schiffer said. “I would encourage anybody to use it because we don’t ignore them. If somebody does call, we can tell what phone called us, of course, and where it is, and we’re going to send people to that location.”

Alec Collins, ‘27, said he has not used a call tower at Lehigh, but he supports the installation of new blue light call towers.

“I’ve always felt pretty safe at this school, but more safety obviously couldn’t hurt,” Collins said. “It’s good that they’re doing this.”

Even with these safety upgrades, Schiffer suggested students continue to watch out for the safety of others and work to keep each other safe.

“‘We watch out for each other’ is the tagline for HawkWatch,” Schiffer said. “That was chosen for a reason. What I really want to work towards constantly is creating a community where everyone looks out for one another.”

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  1. “I’ve always felt pretty safe at this school, but more safety obviously couldn’t hurt,” Collins said. “It’s good that they’re doing this.”

    What a dweeb. Surveill me harder daddy

  2. Tanisha Johnstone on

    Yes more safety is obviously better, well said Alec! Literally no downside at all! Glad we are finally adopting technology to surveill us harder for more safety!

  3. Sarah Bruckenberg on

    Wow I wish we had these when I was on campus. As a queer jewish woman I often did not feel safe at night and knowing the LUPD was watching my every move would have put me at ease. Great work to all involved in this effort.

  4. Hey I actually work at IV&C (company that gets this video feed) and we are really optimistic about this rollout. We have employees working 24/7 in India and the Philippines that will be watching the feed and can call in any suspicious activity they see before a student actually even needs to act. Really excited to be able to stop crime before it happens, no amount of safety is too much when it comes to students.

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