Video and Schools: Making the connection between video and deterrence

Arizona school uses video to deter incidents and augment guard staff

Flowing Wells High School in Tucson, Arizona is completely new to video. While an investment in video has been on the discussion table for the last six years, each year budget priorities and lack of funds prevented them from investing in a surveillance system.

Video was not considered critical because Flowing Wells is fortunate to have few serious security problems. Incidences include the ever-common student fights, vandalism, and petty theft. While certainly not welcome problems, in today's day and age these incidences are nothing short of expected in high schools. However, tired of dealing with several incidences of vandalism and theft each year, the administration at Flowing Wells hired security guards to patrol the school on foot at night.

"We hired security officers to patrol the campus each night and on weekends. It was the most practical, cost-effective solution we could think of. We hoped that having someone on site during prime crime-time would deter unlawful activities at our school. Still, it is difficult for a guard to be more than one place at a time. In case of an incident, it can also be difficult for the officer to know precisely how to respond until he is already on the scene," said Dr. Nicholas Clement, Superintendent of Flowing Wells Unified School District.

So when video presented itself as a viable alternative, Flowing Wells jumped at the chance. Wren, a Jefferson-City, Missouri-based provider of video surveillance solutions for more than 25 years, approached Flowing Wells about piloting some IP cameras and Wren Video Management System (VMS) Software.

"Wren opened the door for us to be able to experiment with video and determine its place in our school. They had some great technology and really understood our security challenges as well as our budget and resource limitations," noted Dr. Clement. "We needed a solution that was going to be dependable and manageable right from the start. We also needed installation and training that would have minimal impact on our regular activities."

Strategic Decisions

Understanding where the majority of problems take place, Flowing Wells decided to focus initially on coverage of the parking lot. This is the site of many incidents, including vandalism of cars and thefts. It was also a strategic entry point, because anyone travelling to the school in a vehicle must pass through the main gate and into the parking lot. Covering this area would hopefully deter vandalism and theft in the parking lot, as well as serve as a "watchtower" to identify suspicious intruders or visitors to the campus during off hours.

The administration at Flowing Wells had other strategic benefits in mind as well. Never having used video cameras before, they feared push-back from parents and students. "While people recognize that cameras are intended to protect students and staff, there are still privacy concerns that present themselves any time you start monitoring common areas. By starting with the parking lot, we knew video was a win-win for everyone," recalled Dr. Clement.

The support for video was unanimous -- students, staff and parents were all happy to see the video installed because it offered protection for their cars. As parents see the benefits of video and understand that Flowing Wells is sensitive to privacy issues and takes great care in using video responsibly, they will be more likely to support campus-wide implementations to further protect students.

The Implementation

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