Starting this summer, video surveillance systems will be installed on all campuses in the Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District to help protect against vandalism and other crimes.
And it appears the move couldn't have come at a better time. As summer vacation begins, vandals and thieves have struck several area campuses, including Roseville High, where 21 trees were cut down last week, and Sacramento's John Sloat Elementary, where air-conditioning unit were ruined. Kennedy High School in Sacramento was the victim of a rash of student pranks.
The crimes have resulted in thousands of dollars in repairs as well as community outrage.
"We know that video surveillance is an extremely effective system for property and student safety," said Mark Geyer, superintendent of the Dry Creek district, which includes campuses in Roseville and Sacramento County's Antelope area.
Geyer said district vandalism costs dropped from $35,000 to $7,000 a year after cameras were installed at Silverado Middle School in 2005 and Barrett Ranch Elementary in 2006. Video surveillance also was placed in spots at a few other campuses, Geyer said.
The goal is to have cameras watching for mischief in most areas of all district schools by the end of the year.
Dry Creek trustees this month awarded a contract to Sonlight Communications, which will provide and install new surveillance equipment at Antelope Crossing Middle School and Antelope Meadows, Heritage Oak and Quail Glen elementaries.
Some public schools have been equipped with video surveillance systems since before the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo., drew national attention to school safety, according to Video-Surveillance-Guide.com.
While there is mounting pressure to provide video surveillance, schools have struggled with the high expense, particularly in times of tight budgets.
Jon Coleman, assistant principal at Roseville High School, said video surveillance would cost his school an estimated $75,000 to $100,000 in startup costs. He hopes the latest school vandalism will speed up a longtime effort to secure the funds.
"I was mortified and incredibly shocked that someone would do such a wanton act of violence to our school," Coleman said of his discovery June 3 of the chopped down trees.
School officials must weigh the costs of video surveillance against its benefits, such as providing sources of physical evidence when crimes do occur and protecting student privacy.
In addition to expanding video surveillance at Dry Creek schools, there also is a plan to improve how the system works, Geyer said. He is working with the Roseville Police Department to allow police to monitor district schools in real time.
Dry Creek's video surveillance is being funded up to 50 percent by a Roseville Police Department safety grant. Remaining costs are funded by Measure E, a $67.3 million bond approved by voters in February.