Plan gives police access to school cameras

March 6, 2008 4:02:18 PM PST
It's a first for the nation: making school security cameras accessible to police. Mayor Daley, along with police and education officials, announced Thursday an agreement that gives Chicago Police officers the ability to view school video from remote locations such as squad cars as they head into emergency situations. Civil libertarians may not like it, but proponents say it is about protecting kids.

In the aftermath of a weekend in which four more Chicago Public Schools students died violently, and five were wounded, the mayor dismissed civil libertarian concerns upon entering the police department's Crime Prevention and Information Center.

"When fully implemented over the next few months, we will have a comprehensive school security system that will make it easier for us to respond more quickly and effectively to any emergency at a school building," Daley said.

A new remote connection will allow operators to access 4,500 CPS cameras and zoom in to the streets surrounding schools, expanding the video security blanket that starts with police cameras.

Security cameras in the schools have obvious value for the high school, but now that the image is being captured in real time by the Chicago Police Department, the integration of these two systems for both organizations, the police and the high schools, is priceless.

At Marshall High, Maurice Vinson has been in charge of security for seven years. His school and community welcome working with the police.

"They look for us to do more in terms of the schools, and when they see we have an upgraded camera system, they want us to patrol and give them information about things that happen so that we can curtail it," said Maurice Vinson, Marshall High School security.

But, for some, more cameras aren't a panacea for what ails inner city schools.

"It is a waste of money and a waste of our time. We need more resources, we need help," said Charlotte Washington, student's mother.

At Robeson High, cameras didn't save Charlotte Washington's daughters from being roughed up by gangs -- a frustration for community activists who feel they are ignored.

"The Back-of-the-Yards, they have cameras there, and there's shootings. You can see the person shooting, but they still don't have a face, they still don't have closure for the person that lost their loved one," said Ameena Matthews, Ceasefire.

Chicago Police say hooking the video systems up will cost $418,000.

And, while police won't get to school incidents any faster, when they do arrive, they'll be better prepared.