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Walk-Through Metal Detectors for Personnel
(Chapter 3   Metal Detection, Continued)

Hardware costs and manpower costs

Portal metal detectors vary widely in price. Portals on the market range from as little as $1,000 up to as much as $30,000. The moderately-priced models around $4,000 to $5,000 probably offer the features and reliabilities required for a school metal detection program. Models closer to $1,000 are not recommended due to lack of sensitivity of these devices. Models in the higher price ranges generally offer enhanced capabilities that would not be necessary or warranted in a school environment.

Exhibit 3.05The initial purchase price of a portal metal detector is almost insignificant compared with the ongoing personnel costs to operate the equipment in a complete weapon detection program. An excellent example that illustrates this fact is the successful weapon detection program run by the New York City (NYC) Board of Education in about 50 of its inner-city high schools (exhibit 3.5). For just one of its schools with about 2,000 students, the weapon detection program requires 9 security officers for approximately 2 hours each morning. Two officers run the two initial portal metal detectors, two officers run the baggage x-ray machines, one officer runs the secondary portal metal detector for students who fail the initial detector, two officers (a male and a female) operate the hand scanners on students who fail the secondary metal detector, and two officers keep the students flowing smoothly and quickly through the system, such that nobody is able to bypass any part of the system. It should be noted that the only way these schools are able to avoid huge waiting lines, even with this much equipment and this many officers, and still get everybody to class on time is by a complete restructuring of their class periods. There is a significant staggering of first period start times so that the students arrive over a 90-minute period. On average, NYC school safety officials estimate that they fund approximately 100 additional security officer hours a week for each of their schools that screen for weapons.

To make any metal detection program effective, school access during the rest of the school day, during off-hours, and during special activities needs to be tightly controlled. A motivated student can defeat a lax system. If there is a comprehensive metal detection program at the front entrance to the school, but the back entrance through the cafeteria is unguarded, the funding and efforts put into a well-meaning program can be wasted. A successful metal detection program cannot be poorly funded or run by an administration that is reticent to make major changes to school policies and procedures.

 



Research Report:   The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools