New York Public School District gets IP Video Surveillance

Government Security News article by Jacob Goodwin

How one public school district approaches video surveillance.

By JACOB GOODWIN, Editor-in-Chief, GSN: Government Security News, January 2006

The 1999 massacre of students at Columbine High School, in Littleton, CO, drew national attention to the apparent need for greater security precautions in American schools, and inspired millions of dollars in video surveillance installations by school districts in virtually every state.

But the fact is that the prevention of shocking (and perhaps fatal) attacks by students upon other students is but one reason -- and often one of the least important reasons -- for school boards across the country to have approved such high-tech expenditures.

To gain some insights into the anatomy of a state-of-the-art video surveillance system in an American school district, and to understand the motivations of the principal, the technology director, the teachers and the students, GSN’s editor-in-chief, Jacob Goodwin, recently visited one typical district, the Eastchester Union Free School District, in Eastchester, NY, a middle class suburb of New York City, with a population of about 31,000, located about 20 miles north of Manhattan.

For years, Eastchester had gotten along with an analog video surveillance system. The cameras were not monitored "live," incidents were recorded on videotape, but rarely examined because of the difficulty of finding specific images. Because the individual cameras were not connected via any computer network, neither district personnel nor the principals were able to monitor any recorded activities remotely.

That has all changed dramatically with the installation of a new system, consisting of approximately 100 cameras that provide color and full-motion video. The system has set up virtual local area networks (VLANs) for the video traffic, which use standard routers and switches to separate the video network from the school district’s existing Voice Over IP (VoIP) network.

The systems integrator was Select Telecom, Inc., of Valhalla, NY; cameras were supplied by Axis and the video management software was developed by Milestone Systems.