Today in NC State History: Public safety plays game of ‘gotcha’

March 31, 2015
By Chris Saunders

historyIconLook anywhere on NC State’s campus and you will see one of the university’s best attributes. Be it in a research lab or in the James B. Hunt Jr. Library, leading technology is always being used to help the university stay true to its mission.

That was also the case on this day in 1980, when it was announced that NC State’s Department of Public Safety was utilizing a state-of-the-art silent alarm they called “the gotcha machine.”

The alarm, which cost $1,400 and used sound sensors and trip wires, was portable and could be moved to different locations around campus to deter crimes, such as breaking into vending machines. “It might be here today and gone tomorrow,” said LaDell Parker, a public safety officer.

Students never knew where public safety officers chose to set up the alarm. It was always hidden and would work within a 200-foot range. When the alarm was tripped, officers in nearby patrol cars and in headquarters were alerted. But, because the “gotcha machine” was a silent alarm, the would-be criminals were unaware they had been nailed until the police showed up. Hence, the “gotcha” moniker for the device.

“According to Parker, the alarm has already succeeded by aiding in the March 25 arrest of two students for attempting to break open a vending machine in Bragaw Hall lobby,” the Technician reported.

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