The Detroit Public Schools is moving briskly forward with plans to spend nearly $42 million to improve safety for its students, faculty, and staff.
The money, approved by voters in a 2009 bond measure, will add 100 security cameras to each high school, 32 in middle schools and 24 on elementary campuses. There are plans for ID badges to be issued to all students and faculty.
Detroit’s commitment to student safety is admirable. It’s also vital to keeping the district a vital force in the community. Crime, including a number of campus shootings, over the past few years has lead to a mass exodus of students to private or suburban schools. Over the past seven years, student enrollment in Detroit Public Schools has dropped by 50 percent.
Recently, I learned that the district is using part of the bond funds to build a new police headquarters that will serve as a high-tech hub for school security. The data from school cameras and alarm systems will be monitored in this command center. Once an alarm comes in from a school, officers will immediately be able to view video from that campus. It will help district police make decisions on the best way to respond to an incident.
Construction on the center began last month on a site formerly occupied by two schools. The center is expected to open in December.
I strongly support the use of cameras as a security tool on campus. But for cameras to be most effective, there has to be a plan to monitor them and take advantage of their capabilities. This new Detroit command center is a good step in that direction.
Patrick Fiel is public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for Washington, D.C. Public School System. He also served 22 years in the Army Military Police Corps, where his responsibilities included day-to-day security operations at the West Point Military Academy. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.
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