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Ref: Chicago links responders and police to schools' surveillance systems

Chicago SunTimes

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Daley unveils plans to increase school security

March 6, 2008
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
After an epidemic of school shootings and a bloody weekend for Chicago Public School students, Mayor Daley today unveiled plans to bolster school security by linking 4,500 school cameras to police districts, squad cars and the 911 emergency center.

Chicago's existing surveillance network includes more than 10,000 public and private cameras. Adding school cameras will boost that number by 45 percent, creating an integrated camera network that, police Supt. Jody Weis said, has "evolved into a national model." The $418,000 upgrade is being financed by federal Department of Homeland Security funds. It follows the Valentine's Day massacre at Northern Illinois University and a weekend that saw four Chicago Public School students shot and killed and five others wounded in separate shootings.

"We need everyone from every part of our city to stand together and say, 'We will not tolerate threats against the safety of our children. We will not accept another weekend like this,' " Daley said.

Weis added: "Students are confronted with gangs and drug dealers in their own neighborhoods. But they also battle them inside the classroom and on school grounds . . . If we can place cameras in communities to monitor drug corners and dangerous offenders, then we can place them inside and outside of the schools for the safety of our students." Until now, real-time video from cameras strategically positioned at inside and outside 200 high schools, elementary schools and administrative buildings has been accessible, only to school security.

The cameras are not monitored. They're accessed whenever needed.

From now on, there will be, what schools chief executive officer Arne Duncan calls an "extra set of eyes" -- or several pairs. School video will be accessible to 911 dispatchers, from "portable data terminals" in squad cars and at police districts.

When officers respond to an incident, they'll know what they're up against and have video of the suspect. They'll even be able to pull up a floor plan of the school.

"Cameras are there to serve and protect people and give first-responders more information," Daley said. "The World Trade Center proved that. First responders have to have to have as much information as necessary dealing with any type of a fire or police car-for their own safety and the safety of the citizens as well." At a news conference at the intelligence-gathering Crime Prevention and Information Center at police headquarters, Daley said "routine monitoring" of school cameras would be limited to those positioned at the entrances and exits to school buildings, and not looking at what goes on inside school buildings.

"You have teachers in there. You have people working ," Daley said. "We don't want them to assume that people are looking at them inside the school system".

But the mayor made no apologies for Chicago's ever-expanding camera network, billed as the largest outside London.

"A public school is a public school," he said. "A public sidewalk is a public sidewalk. A public street is a public street. A park is a public park. And I have a responsibility to preserve and protect the people of the city of Chicago. If walk down the street, you want to be safe. It doesn't really infringe on any civil liberties at all." Even before the 911 center hook-up, school cameras have apparently served their purpose. According to Duncan, violent crime in the schools is down 30 percent.

"People know they're being watched," Duncan said. "Folks know that, if they do something crazy, the world is gonna see it."

© Copyright 2008 Digital Chicago, Inc.

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