Good applications versus poor applications
An effective use of cameras in schools is viewing the recorded tape after an incident has occurred. Examples of reasonable goals for a school video system are capturing scenes indicating who started a fight in the hallway, who is smoking marijuana in the parking lot, who stole all the blank computer disks out of the computer laboratory, or if a particular person did indeed try to run down someone with his or her truck in the school driveway. Less reasonable goals, or at least more difficult or manpower intensive, are trying to use camera scenes to stop a student fight in its early stages, prevent someone from bringing weapons into the facility, or catch a thief before he makes his escape.
A visible camera may not help if a school's goal is to identify a nighttime thief in the band hall or computer lab if the thief simply covered his or her face or disguised himself or herself. However, it may still add substantially to deterrence; a would-be thief may never be sure if there will be some type of immediate response to the video recording or exactly where all the cameras are located.
Depending upon each situation, video cameras can support security initiatives in the following applications:
- Parking lots and driveways.
- Patio and entry areas.
- Main administrative offices (exhibit 2.3).
- Band halls.
- School stores.
- Computer rooms.
- Science laboratories.
- Supply closets.
Schools may want to consider classroom installation of the cameras and recorder enclosures that are currently so popular for use on school buses. For buses, a camera is placed in the black box only when requested by a bus driver, thereby reducing the number of camera systems that must be purchased. Usually, the deterrence factor derived from students never knowing when a camera is actually present can discourage much of the misbehavior. (This is not to be confused with the use of a dummy camera, where a potential victim is under the illusion that he or she is being monitored and, therefore, help will be forthcoming in the event of an attack; this can create extensive liability concerns for a facility.)
In an application with a camera looking in an easterly or westerly direction, extreme glare may occur during sunrise or sunset. If this type of placement cannot be avoided, the camera should be mounted as high as possible and then angled downward to view below the horizon. If sunrise and/or sunset are not critical time periods for a particular application, then it may be acceptable to simply have an unusable picture during these times.
Similarly, vehicle headlights and other sources of glaring light, particularly during night operations, should be considered. A system that is designed with the potential problem sources recognized can be compensated for. After initial installation is complete, it is much more difficult to compensate for these problems. Oftentimes, funding is no longer available to make needed adjustments.
Viewing a scene such as a dark doorway that contains a significant shadow can be quite difficult (exhibit 2.4). Newer cameras with better electronics help compensate for these types of applications, but they are more expensive.
Seasonal problems should be anticipated and addressed before purchasing an exterior camera system. Conditions to be aware of are blowing snow, built-up ice on a camera housing, dust storms, trees that block the scene in summer, temperature extremes, or north sides of buildings with shadows that may affect scene assessment during winter months.
Research Report: The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools