It is every parent’s nightmare. The hour is late and their child has not come home from school as expected. In a panic, they call the principal hoping to find their child’s whereabouts. If the child is lucky enough to attend a school with a sophisticated network surveillance system, the principal can look up the student’s schedule, call up the archived video of the hallway where the child’s last period class took place, see the child leaving the classroom and follow the student’s path as he or she exits the building.
Such is the case at Deer Park Independent School District, located some 20 miles southeast of downtown Houston, Texas.
With their IP-based video surveillance system, administrators “can verify the exact time of day a student left the building and usually we can identify who they last spoke with or left the building with,” says Don Dean, Deputy Superintendent for Administration of the Deer Park Independent School District. “So it gives the parents some avenue to call and that generally turns out to be where the student is found.”
Like many schools, Deer Park has stepped up school security in recent years to better ensure the safety of its more than 12,300 students and nearly 1,800 teachers and other employees. “We’re concerned about access control,” Dean says. “We want to know who is in our facilities and whether visitors are entering our buildings without authorization.”
To achieve that level of vigilance, Deer Park turned to LenSec, a provider of turnkey IP-based video surveillance solutions. LenSec provided the school district with a comprehensive security system that enables school personnel to monitor activity at all 14 campuses and several additional district buildings. The digital, district-wide solution integrates video management software with more than 700 network cameras from Axis Communications — interior and exterior fixed-dome as well as numerous day/night and pan/tilt/zoom cameras for nighttime viewing — to cover the hallways, cafeterias, exterior entrances and athletic grounds of the campuses.
The LenSec/Axis system enables any authorized person in the Deer Park district to see any campus camera from a computer. “Not only do students and staff feel safer with the ‘omnipotent presence’ installed in and around each campus, but parents have more confidence in the district’s ability to protect their children while at school,” says Alan Morris, Vice President of Business Development for LenSec.
Keeping a Watchful Eye
The administrators at Deer Park are always on the lookout for any type of behavior that might be deemed inappropriate or threatening to another student — bullying, harassment and other altercations. With high-resolution network cameras, administrators can delve into the video archive and determine exactly what happened and who was involved.
The system provides several ways to search the archived video and expedite the investigation. “We can retrieve video based on an approximate time when we think the event took place in a specific location, or, with ‘Box Search,’ we can place a virtual box around the area we’re concerned about and only search that area,” Dean says. He cites an example where a laptop was stolen in the cafeteria during lunch. In that instance, an administrator called up a view of the room on the video monitor and drew a box around the area where the laptop was last seen. Within seconds, the system retrieved an image of the last person who was in the area before the laptop went missing.
Interceding Before Problems Develop or Escalate
“Our view is that it’s always better to prevent an incident rather than having to go back and investigate what happened after the fact,” Dean says. For the larger campuses, such as Deer Park High School South, which houses more than 2,800 students, this has meant setting up a live monitoring strategy during peak times — immediately before school, during the seven-minute passing period between classes, lunch period and immediately after the close of school for the day.