Chicago to network school cameras to police

After an epidemic of school shootings and a bloody weekend for Chicago Public Schools students, Mayor Daley on Thursday unveiled plans to bolster school security by linking 4,500 school cameras to police districts, squad cars and the 911 emergency center.

Chicago's existing surveillance network includes more than 10,000 public and private cameras. Adding school cameras will boost that number by 45 percent, creating an integrated camera network that Police Supt. Jody Weis said has "evolved into a national model."

The $418,000 upgrade is being financed by federal Department of Homeland Security funds. It follows the shooting at Northern Illinois University and a weekend that saw four CPS students shot and killed and five others wounded in separate shootings.

"We need everyone from every part of our city to stand together and say, 'We will not tolerate threats against the safety of our children. We will not accept another weekend like this,' " Daley said.

Weis added: "If we can place cameras in communities to monitor drug corners and dangerous offenders, then we can place them inside and outside of the schools for the safety of our students."

LIMITED TO ENTRANCES, EXITS

Until now, real-time video from cameras strategically positioned inside and outside 200 high schools, elementary schools and administrative buildings has been accessible only to school security.

The cameras are not monitored. They're accessed whenever needed.

From now on, there will be what schools CEO Arne Duncan calls an "extra set of eyes" -- or several sets. School video will be accessible to 911 dispatchers from "portable data terminals" in squad cars and at police districts.

When officers respond to an incident, they'll know what they're up against and have video of the suspect. They'll even be able to pull up a floor plan of the school.

At a news conference at the intelligence-gathering Crime Prevention and Information Center at police headquarters, Daley said "routine monitoring" of school cameras would be limited to those positioned at the entrances and exits to school buildings, and not looking at what goes on inside school buildings.

"You have teachers in there. You have people working," Daley said. "We don't want them to assume that people are looking at them inside the school system."

Even before the 911 center hook-up, school cameras have apparently served their purpose. According to Duncan, violent crime in the schools is down 30 percent.


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