Don’t forget to maintain security systems

Public schools in Detroit, like many others in our big cities, are suffering on many fronts. This June, more than a quarter of the Detroit Public Schools’ 172 campuses will be shut to help close a $219 million budget deficit. Enrollment is dropping – from 164,500 students in 2002-03 to 87,000 in the current school year. Officials are projecting only 56,500 students by the 2014-15 school year.

Campus crime is rampant, with shootings, fighting, drugs and theft becoming common occurrences. So it is good to see the district take the very bold step of spending $41.7 million to put cameras in every school and issue ID cards to high school students and faculty.

Each high school will have 100 new cameras; there will be 32 placed in middle schools and elementary schools will get 24 cameras each. The cameras will be placed in hallways, stairwells, gyms, parking lots and even storage closets. The ID badges will help to monitor attendance and keep unwanted visitors off campus.

The money for this will come from a $500.5 million bond Detroit voters approved in 2009. The announcement of the new plan came a day after a 14-year-old student ignited a homemade explosive on a Detroit campus. So will the cameras and ID badging help to make Detroit schools really safer?

We asked Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Services, that question. He said the success of the plan will depend upon several issues.

“The money is great, but no matter how many cameras you put into the schools you still have to make sure they are properly positioned and installed,” he said. “Also, there has to be adequate funding to support the continuing maintenance and service of the cameras and the ID system. And will the systems be maintained by district personnel or an outside vendor?”

Too many times schools and cities put in equipment but then fail to properly maintain it and within a short time it begins to fail, Fiel said. He said there also should be approved policies and procedures in place before the systems are working. That might include if and when the cameras will be monitored and how any alarms from the cameras or badging system will be handled.

“These are all issues that can be resolved working with an experienced systems integrator, the district’s security personnel and local law enforcement,” Fiel said. “Overall, this plan has a good chance to make Detroit’s schools safer for students, staff and faculty.”

-- PSW Staff

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