School Security -- ACT Before It's Too Late

Some school administrators need to heed the old saying that it’s too late to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.  A Midwestern school district recently reported the thefts of nearly 300 laptop computers worth more than $330,000.

The thefts, which took place over a six-month period, affected nine of the district’s 13 campuses.  Only a few of the computers were recovered.  Most were sold on the street.

District administrators now say they have taken steps to improve security at their schools.

Expensive high-tech items such as computers, laptops and video monitors are prime targets for thieves.  They are also very valuable tools for teachers to help educate students.  As such, they need to be protected.

Many districts say they don’t have the funds to pay for security equipment.  But, according to Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Services, the cost of doing nothing can be far more expensive than installing a few basic security measures.

“After insurance paid all but $12,000 for the theft -- the computers and some property damage -- that Midwestern district won’t feel the entire loss,” he said.  “But it’s impossible to also put a cost on the lost educational opportunities, not to mention the community paying for a six-month police investigation and the prosecution of those ultimately arrested for the crimes.”

Fiel said more and more school districts are installing monitored burglar alarm, access control and video surveillance systems to help cut crime on their campuses.  Schools without such systems can take interim steps to protect assets while making the transition to a more comprehensive security solution.

“At the end of the day, expensive, portable equipment can be retuned to an office or library, which can be protected by a monitored burglar alarm system,” he said. “Then, should someone try to enter after hours, on weekends or during holidays, the police would be quickly notified to investigate.”

As administrators plan for a new school year, Fiel said it is time to review security measures and take steps to protect expensive computers, televisions and music, laboratory and athletic equipment.  That can begin by working with a security integrator with experience dealing with the special needs of schools. He also urged administrators to look into possible federal and state grants to help pay for added security equipment.

“Don’t wait to lock down valuable items until after there is nothing left to protect,” he said.

–– PSW staff