High tech video surveillance in place at local schools

ST. GEORGE – Washington County School District students, its employees and the public may not realize it, but a high tech surveillance system is in place district wide to help prevent crime and promote safety.
 
“This surveillance system allows our school resource officers to access important information from their office or patrol cars,” said LuAnne Forrest, district director of student services and emergency services. “This system ties in with our goal to raise awareness, be proactive and encourage safety for all.”
 
A video surveillance system is installed at all high schools, intermediate and middle schools throughout the district, providing select views of various locations within the school and the grounds outside. There are 16 school resource officers with access to any of the video surveillance, either from an office computer or laptop positioned inside a patrol vehicle.
 
“The main job of a school resource officer is prevention,” said St. George Police Lt. Gordon McCracken, who oversees the school resource officers. “They go to work every day to prevent the worst case scenario. They are there to create a culture of awareness, to prevent bullying and to let the kids know they genuinely love them. These officers can’t wait to get to work; you can’t fake that with kids.”
 
A recent donation of a $600 large screen TV from Boulevard Home Furnishings has been added to the St. George Police Department’s arsenal of monitors used by the police dispatch center. The donation was funded through the Boulevard’s annual Labor Day sale that generates extra dollars for each school in the district.
 
“Money is tight all over and this donation helps complete our monitoring system,” said McCracken. “We are in this together and have a very good working relationship with the school district and each individual school. It’s great teamwork.”
 
Millcreek High School Resource Officer Matt Orr has access to all surveillance cameras located in the various schools from his office computer.
 
“The idea is to make sure the surveillance system is compatible with police dispatch so that we can see inside and outside the school,” said Orr. “When I first heard about the school resource program, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. We get to work with kids all day and have the opportunity to help them with a variety of problems. We also see the good side of kids.”
 
The surveillance system can be accessed at the dispatch center, police officers, and by specific school district personnel. That way, first responders are able to monitor schools for potential problems around the clock and school employees are aware of what’s happening. Evidence can be gathered from the surveillance videos or still shots can be selected and enhanced when needed.
 
“The public needs to remember that there is no expectation of privacy when they are in a public place such as a school or city park,” said McCracken. “It’s the same as if you are in a bank or pharmacy. There’s no difference in the surveillance system.”
 
Students involved in a recent fight between two area high schools were identified using surveillance from the system, he added.
 
“We pulled a copy of the video and could see the fight, when and where it occurred,” said McCracken. “We were able to hold these students responsible for their actions. We want all students to know that we care about what happens in their school.”
 
Forrest and McCracken agree that trust between the police and school district is increasing.
 
“Our main focus is crime prevention and safety,” said Forrest. “Our partnership with the police and other first responders is indispensable and critical to our success.”

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