Superintendent of Schools Paul L. Vance has recommended to the Board of Education that an expansion of the use of security cameras in high schools be considered in the next capital budget as a safety and deterrent measure against school violence and crime.
The recommendation was contained in an update to the Board on the status of such cameras in the Montgomery County Public Schools. Currently, three schools -- Damascus, Albert Einstein, and Seneca Valley high schools -- have security camera systems. Four schools -- Montgomery Blair, James Hubert Blake, Northwest, and Thomas Wootton -- are to have such systems installed. That will leave 16 high schools, as well as administrative facilities, to be addressed in any further expansion.
"Given the recent tragedies at high schools throughout the country, I believe it is time to install comprehensive closed circuit television systems in all of our high schools," Dr. Vance said in the update to the Board.
The superintendent noted that such systems already have proven effective as a deterrent and in providing documentation of violations of laws and school regulations. Students have been documented on film at schools committing thefts, marking graffiti, vandalizing property, and fighting. One student was filmed making a threatening phone call from a pay phone.
The estimated cost of expanding the security cameras to all high schools is $685,000. Dr. Vance recommended that this effort be included in the Fiscal Year 2001capital budget to be considered by the Board of Education this fall for the 2000-2001 school year.
The proposed system would operate 24 hours a day, including weekends. There would be a videotape recorder in place for each camera. After an incident happens, the tape could be played back to show activity during the time frame being investigated. The school-based cameras also would be accessible to central security monitors. Consequently, in response to an alarm, a security monitor will be able to dial into the school via a computer modem and view activity through the CCTV system in the area of the alarm.
The envisioned system would be used also to guide school system security patrollers and county or municipal police responding to the burglar alarm call and document the burglary or other security incidents. The central security equipment also would have the capability of digitally enhancing videotape frames to reveal obscured facial and clothing features of a subject in shadows or a long distance from the camera lens. The resulting evidence would be available to present at suspension and expulsion hearings and court prosecution proceedings.