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Schools consider surveillance options

Auburn elementary campuses hope security cameras will curb vandalism
By: Andrew Westrope, Journal staff writer
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Auburn elementary schools are looking to crack down on vandalism this year by investing in new surveillance technology.
The Auburn Union School District board of trustees had its first opportunity to review a handful of proposals and estimates at its regular meeting on Wednesday, though it tabled a decision until the next meeting on Feb. 6 to give the facilities committee more time to review them all.
Maintenance and Operations Director Stan Brandl had solicited proposals from five different security companies, asking for their opinions on what security measures would be most effective instead of asking for quotes on specific systems. Some proposals involved cameras monitored by off-site teams in touch with the police, and others suggested cameras that would automatically alert school personnel to trespassers.
Board President Dan Berlant said the project is a response to a rash of vandalism at E.V. Cain and Rock Creek schools, although cameras would be installed in Alta Vista, Auburn Elementary, and Skyridge as well.
“Every year, and especially during the summertime, schools across the nation see an increase in vandalism,” he said. “This year, a number of our schools were hit pretty hard by vandalism. (It was) broken windows in classrooms, but we also had a break-in in our cafeteria and food was destroyed, and I think they left the freezer door open, which allowed a lot of the food to spoil as well.”
Berlant said the schools already have alarm systems, but cameras might help further deter vandals and allow the police to identify perpetrators so the schools can get some restitution for damages.
Chief Business Officer Monica Williams initially suggested a proposal from Power Protection Plan, Inc. of Auburn based on preliminary recommendations from staff, because it was mostly a one-time expense and offered cameras with a “surprisingly clear” picture capable of identifying an intruder. The board decided to table the vote on that proposal — which would have cost approximately $24,000 altogether — after Kent Douglass of Power Protection One explained why he believed the system would not be effective.
Based on his experience installing security systems in Roseville, Davis High School, and other areas, Douglass guessed E.V. Cain alone would require at least 12 to 16 cameras worth over $1,000 apiece, and the method of alerting a school administrator with a motion sensor would require him or her to see and respond to texts around the clock.
“Four cameras aren’t going to begin to cover what you see on that campus,” he said. “What they’re counting on is that when a bad guy walks out there, that camera will detect that person and send Stan an e-mail, via text message, and what Stan will get is a snapshot of what the camera saw. Then Stan has to say, ‘That looks suspicious,’ he has to get into the app, bring up the DVR, he can get to the camera and do it live. By the time he’s done that, whatever was in that snapshot I’ll guarantee you is no longer in the snapshot.”
Whatever the board chooses to do next month, Berlant expects the money will have to come from the general fund. While he said he doesn’t want to overspend on an elaborate security system, he hopes investing in security now will prevent costly damages in the future.