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Software for schools

A US case study of IP video management software (VMS) for security for the second largest school district in California. The San Diego Unified School District’s previous video surveillance presented a number of problems. It required two management servers in which most settings had to be replicated, which was awkward and cumbersome. Programming cameras required navigating two operating systems. Training administrators and end users on the old technology also took a lot of time, as did making district-wide updates.

As a district with more than 200 facilities, San Diego Unified School District sought video surveillance that could be centrally administered, and support HD quality images to better manage behaviour and prevent vandalism. It had to be expandable, and accommodate additions such as the access control that the district hopes to deploy. Installer and design partner, Proshop Group and Dotworkz, designed and fitted the network security solution, choosing Milestone Systems’ XProtect VMS. Its open platform allows the schools to manage 1169 video cameras from a mix of manufacturers: Axis, Bosch, IQinVision, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony. The installation runs on IBM and Dell servers.

Dotworkz president Will Ferris, pictured left, believes that Milestone’s open platform provides the greatest value for what is most important to the school district. This includes scalability, incorporating new functionality and enhancing safety and security for parents, students and teachers. Ferris says: “We helped the district in its quest for better camera and processing technology. We served as a guide, showing them the advantages of Milestone’s open platform and advised them to complete the training required to become certified in the technology. We also built the housings for their external cameras.”

The cameras are installed at points where break-ins commonly occur and in areas where students gather that are the most problematic. “This system makes each campus safer for students and staff. We now have the level of visual communication we need to resolve most problems before they arise,” said Mike Cho, pictured right, Safety and Security Coordinator, San Diego Unified School District.

As the district depends on voters’ support for bond funding, the use of Milestone was made with an eye toward cost effectiveness. The video platform has paid off by cutting the time required to administer the system and to train users and by reducing the vandalism that demands costly repairs. Further savings are achieved by reducing the number of staff members needed to physically monitor so many areas. According to district administrators, the system has improved conduct across the board by providing high-definition (HD) images that make identifying and charging perpetrators much less arduous than it was.

“Since they’ve noticed that they’re being monitored, the students’ behaviour has improved,” says Cho. “They know that every action occurring in the common areas is being recorded.”

At the school that once had the worst graffiti problem, tagging has been reduced by 80 percent since the new systems went live, which has also lessened the amount of time district painters spend at the school covering the graffiti. The chances of a rival gang coming to mark the territory as its own have been lowered, as has the violence that often occurs when encountering each other at a graffiti site. From a security perspective, the problem with such a large district is that it is not unusual for a fight to break out while the school’s dedicated police officer is responding to a different incident in another area. With cameras and the Milestone platform at work, the officer can use the video to determine how many back-up officers are needed at which spots.

Students don’t always tell the full story after an incident. “Nobody wants to be known as a ‘snitch,’” Cho says. “Now nobody has to be because the video shows all, and the HD video really helps us identify people.”

In one case, a student punched another student in the face a number of times. Each witness interviewed by administrators after the incident had slightly different recollections, but the video provided the evidence needed to charge the perpetrator in court.

Cho reports that the system manager loves the VMS because it can be more easily and quickly managed. Under the previous system, programming one camera required navigating two separate operating systems. Milestone cuts that time in half. “Plus, I can view it remotely with my iPad!” says Cho. ”With the previous system there was enough time to go get coffee between starting it and being able to log on. With Milestone, you just click and you’re on. It’s beautiful.”


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