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Video tech snuffed out costly arson at Anchorage School District

septembre 20, 2021

To reduce the rising expenses of vandalism such as broken windows and recurring playground fires at elementary schools, the widespread Anchorage School District installed video security and expanded to networked surveillance systems with central control.

Challenge: How to see remote locations

With a limited budget, the district started a program for the installation of four to six cameras at elementary schools, six to ten at middle schools, and 10 to 15 at the larger high schools. These initial systems had a mix of analog cameras with on-site DVRs monitoring and recording.

The first sets of cameras quickly received a lot of use, and we started getting requests for expanded capabilities. People could monitor areas of the school they were not able to see before.
Kelly Kass, Manager at Anchorage School District (ASD)
Solution: Successful pilot test drives an upgrade

The district contacted Anixter and asked about migrating to an IP network system. Anixter had been involved in the district’s cabling infrastructure for several years and achieved results with Milestone IP video technology for other customers, including another school district.

Our suggestion was to do a test of the top three VMS platforms that we worked with. This was a controlled evaluation over several months. After reviewing with the different schools and having the principals visit, the district unanimously decided on the Milestone video management software.
Bob Thibault, RCDD, Alaska Territory Manager, Anixter

With the upgraded installations the district saw a reduction in vandalism, and they were able to record several events that helped identify and apprehend suspects. However, it was the overall increased situational awareness that deemed the test a success. Administrators decided to install many cameras and build a more capable video management system.

Results: To catch a thief, even from afar

The Milestone VMS was selected based on the range of features, ease of use, breadth of devices supported, technical support, performance and cost evaluations. Since then, the district has installed 50 Milestone sites. As funding becomes available, they continue to upgrade and expand the VMS to more schools.

Playing with fire will get you caught

Within the ASD, playground fires were a real problem. The elementary school playgrounds make use of shredded rubber mulch as a surface under the play equipment. The surface is soft, durable, weather resistant and made of recycled sources — unfortunately it burns.

The Anchorage School District  had three or four playground fires each summer once use of the mulch began. Most fires were vandalism — only one fire was documented to be accidental. Each fire cost the district about $100,000 to replace or repair the playground.

The video has helped identify the cause of fires and identification of suspects. With proper evidence, restitution from the suspect is possible.

Minimize tech theft, broken windows, fights

At middle schools and high schools, there’s a lot of equipment and technology. The use of video has helped reduce theft and aided in narrowing down those involved. Video monitoring also alerts officials to large student gatherings and people in restricted areas.

Vandalism was the ultimate reason for the video systems. But as things have played out at the high school level, we’ve had a good deal of use in accurately identifying students involved in fights, even vindicating the non-aggressor. With video, we can quickly see who the instigator was and act accordingly.
Kelly Kass, Manager, ASD

Elementary schools primarily use cameras for seeing and "buzzing in" visitors at the entrances, as well as watching the playgrounds. However, window breakage is a very costly problem, since many of the district’s schools are remote where no neighbors would keep an eye out for vandals.

Window breakage was getting so bad one year that we boarded up every window in the Anchorage School District that wasn't in plain sight of the community. After the cameras were installed to provide 24/7 coverage with video documentation of events, we saw a good reduction of breakage. We could stop boarding up the windows altogether.
Kelly Kass, Manager, ASD
Training skills and connecting all the dots

An important component to the schools’ success with the video system involved Milestone on-site user training. Certified instructors provided detailed instruction for about 100 ASD administrators, security professionals and IT personnel. The goal was to make the district as effective and self-supportive as possible, right from the start.

One of the beauties of the system is that it’s very easy to access the video. The Milestone VMS is very intuitive. Anytime users have a question, they access the Help Menu, and answer their own questions. We get very few calls.
Kelly Kass, Manager, ASD

To address bandwidth issues, the systems are leveraging Milestone Federated Architecture for all the school servers, keeping the recorded video on site but allowing administrators to access the connected systems from a single central location, no matter where they are on the network.

In three years, the district deployed 1,270 Milestone device licenses with a total projected scope of 3,000 cameras thereafter. The ASD policy is to keep recorded video for 30 days, with each school archiving events as needed.

About Anchorage School District

Anchorage School District serves the South-central Alaska communities of Anchorage, Eagle River, Chugiak and Girdwood. Encompassing almost 2,000 square miles and with more than 48,500 students across 130 schools and programs, the Anchorage School District is among the largest and most geographically dispersed districts in the United States.

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