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BHS to get security cameras

Reality TV will debut on the Bainbridge High School campus this fall.

Administrators hope that four security cameras to be installed around the school grounds by the end of November will deter vandalism, a costly problem said to be on the rise.

“It seems to have increased over my six years,” said Ken Crawford, district superintendent. “I don’t know why.”

In installing the system, Bainbridge will join other districts that monitor school grounds. Calling such systems “standard practice,” Crawford said Mercer Island High School has had cameras in place since a 1990 remodel, while cameras are ubiquitous in many large urban high schools.

Cost of the initial set-up, with a computer on which images will be recorded, is $6,000.

Four cameras will be installed in the school’s outdoor areas – two will monitor the west parking lot, and two will be installed in the “wagon wheel” courtyard between the buildings.

“We’re not sure of the exact locations,” Crawford said. “They have to be where we can secure a signal (to the computer).”

And, he adds, they must be installed at a height where they won’t be subject to “modification.”

The superintendent has been unhappy with acts of vandalism ranging from broken windows to driving on lawns. Incidents that Crawford calls “a burden for maintenance and an eyesore” occur weekly, he said.

Last spring, a single incident of extensive graffiti vandalism on the south wall of the 300 building cost the district $10,000 to remove, and caused permanent damage to the masonry.

While as many as 12 cameras were considered by administrators, the school board is taking a more cautious approach.

“I can say that the intent was to start slowly to see if there was benefit,” said Cheryl Dale, school board president. “We were concerned about not being ‘Big Brother.’”

The cameras will record only during the hours when school is out, Crawford said. The unmonitored data will be stored for one week on a hard drive in the administration offices, and then be deleted.

Should vandalism occur, the images will help identify those responsible.

While Crawford notes that administrators do have other concerns – like “traffic in illegal substances” and the occasional fist fight – the goal, for now, is safeguarding school property.

“A lot of buildings have put cameras in, especially since (the) Columbine (high school shootings),” Dale said, “but it’s not something we take lightly. Right now it’s a financial decision. We can no longer incur costs from vandalism.”

Crawford said the district must demonstrate the system’s value, and “make certain it’s for no other use than safety of the facility and students.”

“I’m a civil libertarian,” he added, “but as a civil libertarian, I don’t think anyone has the right to destroy the property of others.”

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