School Security News

Detroit To Spend $42 million on Security Gear, Facilities

Detroit Public Schools will be rolling out a $41.7 million public safety plan during the next school year that will include new surveillance technologies and construction of a new $6 million building to house the Office of Public Safety. The money will primarily come out of a half-billion-dollar construction bond approved by city voters in 2009.

The upgrades follow a restructuring of the Office of Public Safety that took place under the direction of Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. Bobb was appointed in January 2009 and within months had uncovered financial fraud and unused assets in the district, including within the Office of Public Safety.

"When I talk to parents about what should be the district's top priorities, many place safety and security in schools above anything else," said Bobb. "Our new safety and security plan is designed to improve school monitoring with state-of-the-art digital cameras and alarms and a new employee and student badge system that combined will allow us to know exactly who is in our buildings at all times and cut police response times in an emergency."

The plan includes $17.3 million for a new IP-based alarm and digital camera system that will enable district police officers to remotely monitor school cameras via the Internet using new desktop computers.

High schools will get 100 cameras each, to be placed in stairwells, hallways, parking lots, entrances, computer labs, storage closets, gyms, and cafeterias, among other locations. K-8 schools will get 32 cameras, and elementary schools will get 24 cameras each. Besides video surveillance, the installations will also include a notification service tied to each school's public address system, phones, bells, and clocks.

The head of the district police department, John Bell, said he believes the deployments of surveillance equipment will reduce the opportunity for theft of district supplies. "If an alarm goes off, the officers will know not just which school has an incident, but which part of the school," Bell said. "If there is a break-in, they'll know exactly which entrance has been broken into, which will allow them to respond more effectively."

High school students will be issued swipe ID badges that will give administrators real-time attendance information. In addition, all district employees will be issued biometric identification badges that will be tied into the payroll and attendance-tracking systems. Employees will be required to sign in and out using their new badges, along with a thumbprint verification system.

The new attendance system will replace three legacy badge systems currently in use and is expected to facilitate better monitoring of employee attendance.

Construction of a new Office of Public Safety is necessary, the district said, to accommodate the new technological infrastructure. The building is expected to be completed in the fall.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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