Weber schools plan expanded video surveillance
Monday , March 18, 2013 - 7:32 AM
OGDEN — The Weber School District plans to put about 1,000 digital cameras into its 45 schools, with technology to link all the feeds to the Real Time Crime Center of the Ogden Police Department.
The police would not monitor the feeds on a regular basis, but in the event of extreme school emergencies, such as armed invasions, could use their “eyes inside” schools to direct responding law enforcement officers from multiple agencies.
To do what the district aims to do by or during the fall term, the price tag would be approximately $550,000, said Dave Brooks, Weber School District technology director. Of that, the Weber School District and Weber School Foundation hope that district parents, grandparents and other residents will each donate any small amount they can, with a target of raising $100,000, or about $2,000 per school, through a fundraising initiative called Safety4Students. Funds donated by the public will be matched by the Weber School Foundation up to a maximum of $100,000.
Brooks said most of the money will come from within the district, with about $350,000 from grants and various district funds.
“Video surveillance isn’t anything new,” said Nate Taggart, district spokesman. “We have it in most of our schools. We started with the high schools.
“But the schools’ systems were bought at different times, and use programs that don’t work together. And the principals can go to the DVR address and pull up what is happening in schools, but there are problems viewingmultiple systems from a single location.”
Some grade schools have no surveillance systems. Some of the schools that were among the first to add systems have analog, rather than digital systems.
“It’s a bad system,” Chris Zimmerman, WSD Foundation director, said of the current set up. “It needs to be improved.”
District officials have been consulting for months with law enforcement, including Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson and Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham. With lots of input, Brooks has determined what new equipment, including cameras, DVRs, a central server, and software and hardware, would best meet the district’s safety needs.
Brooks also has consulted with law enforcement to determine best camera placement for maximum coverage within the schools. Schools will average 50 cameras each, although larger high schools are likely to need more cameras for coverage and small elementary schools will probably require fewer.
The project is now out for bid, Brooks said.
Brooks said in the Weber district, individual school administrators tend to use their surveillance systems about 25 times per day. Feeds are used to monitor school entrances and congested areas in the buildings, and recordings are used to settle issues such as what student started a fight or was in the vicinity when vandalism occurred.
Thompson said the Real Time Crime Center monitors would be available for checking recordings of serious student infractions, or for live crime scene observation in case of extreme emergency.
“If the worst happens and there’s an active threat or even a shooter in the school, we would have a live feed of every area covered by a camera, in real time,” Thompson said.
Officers on the scene could receive radio instructions from dispatchers at the Crime Center, and get information about which building entrances and hallways were safe, and which routes would put them face-to-face with an intruder. With cameras feeding live information, there would be no need forofficers to slowly peek around corners, Thompson said.
“If there were shooters present, saving a few minutes could help us save countless lives,” he said.
The Weber School District will try to modify any of the district’s 715 current cameras and related equipment that can be used with the new system, Brooks said. But the majority of systems in use in the district are low-resolution analog rather than high-resolution digital, the current standard.
“We know the economic times are hard,” Zimmerman said, of the Safety4Students initiative. “We know some will be able to donate $10 and some will donate $100 to the project. We think if people believe in this cause, they will donate.”
All funds donated by individuals can go to their specific local schools, Brooks said, with a goal of raising $2,000 per school. For schools in low-income areas, where donors may not be able to hit the $2,000 target, some private donors have pledged to step in and help, Zimmerman said. Public donors also can elect to give money to a general fund for the project.
Zimmerman said he had received many calls and emails from parents concerned about their children’s safety, especially after last December’s fatal shooting of six staff members and 20 young students at Sandy Hook Elementary, in Newtown, Conn.
Zimmerman said the Foundation board’s usual mission is to enhance education, “... but with all the concerns from our families about safety in the schools, we felt it was a good time for us to get involved in helping our individual schools with a safety plan,” he said.
Whinham said he hopes no one thinks the surveillance system plan was just a result of fears sparked by the Sandy Hook massacre. School safety always has been a high priority, he said. Talks about how to standardize the district’s school security systems have been under way for more than 18 months, Whinham said.
For more information on Safety4Students, or to donate, visit the Weber School Foundation website, at www.foundation.wsd.net.