Washington, D.C.-area public school districts have deployed more than 30,000 surveillance cameras inside school buildings, according to a review of security records by News4.
The rapid increase in camera usage – at least 1,300 were installed in recent months – comes in the wake of school shootings in other regions and concerns about student safety.
The cameras offer video footage for use in solving crimes or investigating security incidents inside buildings.
But the images have grown too numerous to regularly monitor by security staffs, the News4 review showed.
School Security Cameras:
- D.C. Public Schools: 6,100
- Prince George’s County Public Schools: 5,500
- Loudoun County Public Schools: 3,000
- Howard County Public Schools: 1,300
- Frederick County Public Schools: 1,200
- Montgomery County Public Schools: 5,000
- Anne Arundel County Public Schools: 6,000
- Fairfax County Public Schools: 1,250
Prince George’s County Public Schools installed hundreds of new cameras in the past 12 months, a school official told News4.
“Schools can monitor the cameras from the school and we can monitor them from our central security office,” spokesman Max Pugh said.
Montgomery County Public Schools, which now has 5,000 cameras deployed in school buildings, also uses a central security hub to monitor the cameras’ images. Inside the security hub, located inside the district’s administrative office in Rockville, Maryland, security staffers can open and view live footage of any of its cameras with a click of a mouse.
“This is something we planned, when we wired our buildings,” Montgomery County Public Schools Security Director Bob Hellmuth said. “We wired them for the maximum number of cameras we could put in.”
D.C. Public Schools, which uses 6,100 security cameras, according to the News4 review, shares its camera images with the Metropolitan Police Department.
“DCPS centrally monitors alarms and security cameras in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Department from a central security command center,” DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz said.
The costs of cameras to local taxpayers are offset, in part, by government grant money. Hellmuth said recent school shootings nationwide sped the delivery of government grant funding for the purchase and installation of cameras.
Hellmuth acknowledged cameras are now too numerous for his staff to regularly monitor.
“There are lots of things we use a camera for, but it's not our primary security initiative,” he said.
Jamison Adcock, an Aspen Hill resident who lives near an elementary school building, said school districts mustn’t become overly reliant on camera equipment.
“I don't think it's going to prevent things,” Adcock said. “We'd like to have people watching the cameras or on the ground (in the buildings)."
Loudoun County Public Schools, which has deployed about 3,000 cameras, is one of several local districts that deploy police officers, or school resource officers, inside school buildings.
“Loudoun County Public Schools have a strong partnership with all law enforcement partners and encourage their presence in and around the school environment,“ spokesman Wayde Byard said.