Two day/night cameras monitor the playground area in a Council Bluffs school.
From a school district in Iowa to a church school in southern Florida, administrators, security executives and local law enforcement officers are catching on to the abilities of digital security video.

The Council Bluffs (Iowa) Community School District, comprised of 21 grade schools, junior highs and high-schools, employs an IP-based video security system that allows personnel to monitor events of several locations simultaneously in real-time over the district’s local area network infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., uses video security to protect a very large private school as well as other church property. In addition to networking, church officials have burned CDs of particular incidents so that local police can view the evidence on any desktop computer.

In both cases, the images are immediately transportable across a network or by hand.

Small steps to total coverage

The Council Bluffs district has security video that leverages networking capabilities of Surveillix digital video recorders (DVR) from Irvine, Calif.-based Toshiba. Much like other educational institutions and facilities in Iowa and elsewhere, the schools have been a repeated target of gangs, vandalism and theft.

“As a safety and security measure it was decided to add security cameras to our schools,” said Dr. Jo Campbell, the district’s assistant superintendent. “Being in dire financial straights, the effort had to be financed through grants. A plan was laid out to install cameras in the most at-risk schools first and then all of the secondary and finally the remaining elementary schools.”

Greg Smith of Barone Security Systems, Omaha, Neb., helped install the pilot program of DVRs and Toshiba IK-644A day/night cameras into three schools. Following the success of that program, Barone extended the system district-wide. According to Smith, the technology enables school district administrators and other authorized personnel to actively monitor events. Administrators can remotely manage, backup, search and configure images from any networked computer, whether they are in school, at home or traveling.

“The cameras have paid for themselves in the documentation of vandalism and have helped create a more secure environment for our students,” said Dr. Campbell, who explained that the video system has proven to be more valuable and versatile than the Council Bluffs Community School Council anticipated.

“Although the original intention was to have security cameras help monitor outside threats, the system continues to amaze us as it provides so many more resources to our schools,” she said. “The cameras have been instrumental in documenting vandalism where a gang of vandals had been victimizing a small town, not just the school, for years. The first week the cameras were in that school they fully documented the vandals. The cooperating police were thrilled to have everything captured on digital video. Student fights have also been recorded which stands as evidence for further proceedings.”

In one recent event, a camera documented a student viewing pornography on the Internet using school equipment and on school property. “This student came from a family that was less than supportive of schools and was quick to say ‘not my child,’” Campbell said. “It is hard to stand on the issue of child innocence when it is fully documented on a digital camera.”

The 10,000-member Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., which also ministers via 500-plus media outlets, is using 15 fixed color cameras, an outdoor pan-tilt-zoom dome day/night camera and a digital video multiplexer recorder (DVMR), all from GE Security of Austin, Tex., to monitor the church school and church grounds.

Day/night cameras on network

Since implementing the system in January, the church has already captured images of several thefts and identified the suspects. It has also recovered $2,000 in stolen landscaping items and was able to save budget by eliminating a roving guard position.

“The main selling point of the digital recorder was the ability to install it over the computer network to allow multiple people to view the activity at the same time,” said Gary Perlowin, a system specialist for Florida State Fire & Security, which installed the system. “The original project scope called for dedicated monitors in several offices. By putting the system on the local area network, however, the church saved considerable money by eliminating the monitors and cabling.”

The church is home to a large private school that serves students from pre-school through 12th grade. Areas covered include all doors leading into the main church facility, the pre-school areas, the main chapel, the book store, the game room and the fountain in front of the building.

Church officials also wanted to be able to pop a CD-ROM into the CD read/write drive, burn a digital video of a particular incident and provide it to authorities on a CD disk that can be played on any computer running Windows. With the DVMR, church officials can search for incidents by time, date and motion. They have eliminated tedious videotape searches and done away with the need to change tapes every day.

The church has a dedicated security room, manned by one person who monitors the security video, access control and burglar alarm systems. Currently, the video system is not integrated with the church’s access control system, but there are plans to upgrade the access control software in the near future to allow for integration with the CCTV system.

Sidebar: School Security, Transportation Training

Yuba City, Calif.-based eTotalSource Inc. is working with the Grant Joint Unified School District of Sacramento, Calif., to co-produce and distribute an extensive series of certificated training programs covering school transportation service and safety. Numerous specialized trainers are in place, from state and federal agencies, law enforcement and the private sector, to provide expertise in the completion of this project. “We have been negotiating this working agreement and contract for nearly two years and it is very satisfying to see it finally come together. The entire certification series has not only massive annual revenue potential, but also is a program that will be updated and improved, ultimately reselling, year after year,” said Terry Eilers of eTotalSource.