Extra set of eyes: School district mulls security cameras

Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010

The school district is hoping to add eyes to its buildings as a way to deter vandals from leaving their mark.

According to Dave Spence, director of planning and operations for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, the district is in the planning stage of installing security cameras in buildings around the district.

Last week, the district was allotted $160,000 by the borough to get the project rolling.

Spence said a committee is being formed that will consist of both district and borough personnel to lay out a road map for how they will best use the funding and the technology.

"We want to get the most bang for our buck," Spence said, "whether it's to do a district-wide design or whether it's to install cameras right now to get a handle on the vandalism problem."

At this time, no equipment has been purchased, and no installations are being made, he said.

The cameras, which would likely be installed both in and outside of buildings, would help to monitor hallways for behavior issues including bullying, while also watching out for vandalism.

Spence said an additional benefit is that not only could the cameras be used to catch vandals in the act, but also their presence alone would help deter students who knew their actions would be caught on tape.

Spence said he didn't have a figure for how much vandals cost the district a year, but that it does vary depending on the severity of the incidents.

He also said the district had applied for funding help from the state via a grant from the Department of Education and Early Development, to no avail.

Spence said that while vandalism has long been a problem at schools, it tends to be cyclical in nature.

"A couple years ago we had problems in the southern part of the Peninsula and the folks causing those problems were apprehend and after their apprehension the problem went away," he said. "We've had some issues here centrally that are similar in nature."

As of late, he said Soldotna High School has been the target of vandalism, with incidents that have included the tearing up of fields, lawns and flower beds outside the school.

Typically, he said, when vandals are caught, they tend to be students, or juveniles who recently graduated from the school.

"Depending on the population and students, or if you have people that have issues with the school, they're more prone to take it out on the school and to manifest their unhappiness in these sort of ways," he said.

The district also used to have significant issues with vandalism over the summer months when buildings were unoccupied.

Spence said in 1999 they were able curb this problem through their School Camper Host Program, where the district allowed summer visitors to set up their RV on site at some of the schools.

"They provide an extra set of eyes and if they see anything of suspicious nature they call the authorities and that's reduced vandalism to virtually nothing," he said.

Additionally, he said the district's maintenance personnel have been on the spot when it comes to removing signs of vandalism.

"If you don't get rid of (vandalism) quickly it encourages more vandalism," he said.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com.



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