One of the more confusing stories I’ve read lately comes from East St. Louis, Ill., where burglars have taken more than $1 million in computers and other expensive electronic equipment from local schools over the past year–yet there have been no records of any requests for prosecution of the crimes.
And there is even disagreement among how many laptop computers have been stolen, with the reports ranging between 52 and 110.
All this comes from a district that spends $1.2 million with a private security guard firm and has cameras and alarms installed in its schools. Reports from the district’s security department shows the alarms were often not properly set and school doors were left unlocked at night. One police officer reported that some school workers didn’t know how to set the systems. Three computers and a printer were taken from an unlocked school library–the janitor said he didn’t know how to use the key. In some cases, motion sensors didn’t work because their batteries were dead, while in other cases the sensors were turned in the wrong direction.
Often, thieves broke windows with rocks and boards to enter the schools. Many times bicycle tire tracks were found at the scene of crimes, indicating that youths may have been involved in the break-ins.
Technology and guards are wonderful assets for any school district. But the technology is only as good as the people using and maintaining it. If you are using cameras, motion sensors, door alarms, and other electronic security technology, make sure your employees are trained to use it properly. And make sure it is maintained. Otherwise you will be wasting a good investment.
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.
Follow Patrick Fiel on Twitter.