Security Cameras in Some Chicago Schools Linked to Police Stations

Soon, all eyes may literally be on many Chicago public schools. In some cases, students might feel that Big Brother is watching. But following the beating death of a high school student on the city's South Side two years ago, many school officials and parents believe that an elaborate network of security cameras installed throughout several Chicago schools might provide some peace of mind. Schools offering Criminal Justice & Security degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

surveillance web camera

A Sense of Security

It all began with the murder of Derrion Albert.

In 2009 Albert, an honor student at Fenger High School on Chicago's South Side, was beaten to death just a few blocks from the school. The incident was captured on a cellphone video, which led to the apprehension and prosecution of the attackers. More than a dozen security cameras were installed at Fenger by the following year, the first school in the program to link cameras to police departments and other officials.

Now, in fall 2011, the high-definition security camera system is set to be expanded to 14 other Chicago public schools that see their fair share of trouble. In a statement released on Sunday, July 24th Jean-Claude Brizard, CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), said, 'We're taking additional steps to reduce crime and create school environments that are safe for students and staff.'

The $7 million project comes at a time when the school district, the third-largest in the U.S., has a deficit of more than $600 million. But with the success of the program at Fenger High School, Brizard feels the investment is well worth it. Fenger has seen a nearly 80% decline in arrests and nearly 60% decrease in misconduct since the cameras were installed. Cameras installed in hallways and entrances as well as outside the school also helped police to arrest a burglary suspect following several break-ins and have dropped false fire alarm incidents to zero.

In addition to being viewed by nearby police stations, the images sent by the 50 to 80 cameras to be installed in the schools can also been seen by CPS safety and security officials and Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communication (OEMC). Officials can view images via their cellphones.

While some may see the cameras as an invasion of privacy, others like the added feeling of security. Roosevelt High School sophomore Alan Zavala told the Chicago Tribune on July 24th, 'They're treating us like we're in prison', while junior Destiny Riggs of Dun Bar Career Academy told ABC 7 News that it was a 'good thing' the school was starting the installation of cameras. The system might also allow police officers stationed at the schools to return to the streets.

An 'Extensive and Integrated Camera Network'

The installation of security cameras in Chicago schools reflects what is going on in the city beyond the halls of academia. In a February 2011 report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois titled Chicago's Video Surveillance Cameras: A Pervasive and Unregulated Threat to Our Privacy, it is noted that up to 10,000 private and publically-owned cameras are installed throughout the city.

The cameras are generally visible in many public places, with more than 1,000 installed by the Chicago Police Department. Security cameras are also installed and monitored by the Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Housing Authority, O'Hare Airport and Millennium Park. All are linked into a single system operated by OEMC.

Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has stated, 'I don't think there is another city in the U.S. that has as an extensive and integrated camera network as Chicago has.' In a city with a large gang problem and increasing police-involved shootings, the cameras might be seen by many to be necessary. But others, including the ACLU of Illinois, argue that studies show cameras do not deter violent or property crimes.

But according to the statistics from Fenger High School, they seem to be working when applied in educational settings. And in the long run, if one camera can prevent one student from meeting the same fate as Derrion Albert, then Brizard may certainly wind up being right: the $7 million is money well-spent.

Schools are not only faced with physical crimes; find out more about what's being done to keep students safe from cyberbullying.

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