Grant Pays for Camera Installation in Tulsa Schools

Matt Lemon, Sand Springs school resource officer, is relying on new digital security cameras to help him keep an eye on the district.

"There's only one of me, and I can't be at all 10 schools at the same time," Lemon said.

Security cameras have been peering down on activity at the high school and on school buses, and soon at least 70 cameras will record inside and outside activity at all school sites.

Mike Carter, assistant chief of police, said the Sand Springs Police Department applied in June for a federal matching grant called Secure Our Schools.

The $30,000 grant was awarded through the U.S. Justice Department. The school system matched that amount to cover the $60,000 cost of the project.

"We met with the school system to determine what their security needs were, and through our conversations, (we found that) putting in camera systems would ensure security at all the sites," Carter said.

The cameras will be installed in hallways, outside of the school, and in other areas where discipline problems are likely to occur.

The cameras will not be installed in bathrooms or dressing rooms.

"They are not meant to be intrusive but meant to be a deterrent to (illegal) activity within our schools," Carter said.

He said an earlier grant paid for security cameras on school buses.

"I think that's been a success. We haven't had any instances (of behavior problems). The children are safe on buses, and I think it's due to the cameras on the buses," Carter said.

The federal government has decreased funding for school resource officers, who are members of the Sand Springs Police Department. At one time, the school system had three officers, but is now down to one.

"When technology grants became available, we tried to offset the lack of school resource officers," Carter said.

Assistant Superintendent Robert Franklin said school safety is on everyone's mind.

"It's especially been so since that nasty incident in Columbine," Franklin said, referring to the 1999 shooting in Colorado.

"It tweaked the awareness across the country for resource officers, bullying prevention."

He hopes the cameras will help students and teachers feel safer.

"We hope to deter some things that do happen. It's an extra set of eyes," Franklin said.

Monitors likely will be placed in school offices, and Lemon will have access to the recorded material.

Lemon hopes the cameras will cut down on theft, car burglaries and drug activity.

"It should be a deterrent to people who shouldn't be on school property," Carter said.

Carter said students probably will be aware the cameras are rolling.

"If you would be ashamed of having it on video, then you probably shouldn't be doing it," he said.