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Board: Proposed Security System Would Combat Vandalism, Theft at Ramsey High School

A Ramsey school board committee recommended adding video surveillance cameras and a computerized visitor management system to the school

The Ramsey Board of Education is considering a new video surveillance system at the high school that members say would address some of the security concerns at the school.

Board member Jim Meiman, who heads an ad hoc security committee formed last March to investigate potential security upgrades at the high school, proposed at Tuesday night’s board meeting adding over 80 video cameras and a visitor management system to the school.

Meiman said the cameras would help address some of the major concerns that have developed over the years, like graffiti and vandalism, theft, unauthorized access, bullying and sexual harassment.

The cameras would be placed at various locations inside and outside the building, including all of the hallways on every floor, the gyms, cafeteria, auditorium, outside the locker rooms, on the fields and other gathering spots outside and at all of the building’s 21 doorways, including the access points to the roof. According to Meiman, the age of the building, number of doors it has, age of the students in the school, and the open campus policy at lunchtime all support the need for a video surveillance system.

“We want extra eyes [on the campus],” Meiman said.

The cameras, which would be purchased and maintained by an IT company called Promedia, would run continuously outside and be motion-censored inside. District officials and the Ramsey Police Department could access the footage they record via the web-based system.

So that the committee’s proposal did not include the need for additional staffing, the cameras would not be continuously monitored. Instead, Meiman said the cameras would act as a deterrent, and be used forensically after an incident occurred. Camera footage would be stored for a length of time after it recorded, likely around two weeks Promedia representatives at the meeting Tuesday said.

The cameras would cost the district about $325,000 to install this summer, plus software update fees each subsequent year.

A separate component of the proposal included a visitor management system, which would scan the driver’s licenses of all visitors to the building, alert school officials of any “reasons that person should not be there,” log the time they spent in the school, and print visitor passes, Promedia sales representative Barbara Sita explained.

That system would cost the district an additional $5-6,000. 

School officials and board members said they felt the system would be a good start to updating the security system at the high school.

“It’s high time for Ramsey to make an investment in the safety and security of our students and staff,” Meiman said.

Interim Superintendent Bruce DeYoung added that he felt the updates are “long overdue.”

DeYoung also said school officials are meeting next week to discuss possible security upgrades at the district's four other schools. And, if the cameras are approved and successful at the high school, they could be added to the other schools in the future for less money than the initial installation costs, officials said.

The board is expected to vote on the proposal at a future meeting. Residents at the meeting Tuesday night said they felt the cameras were a good first step in improving school security at RHS.

Submit your questions or news tips to jessica.mazzola@patch.com. And, remember to sign up for Ramsey Patch's daily newsletter, and get updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Ramsey Resident with kids January 23, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Jess, I am sure they are wonderful cameras that may capture night time activity. However I don't believe we have a vandalism problem at Ramsey HS or the other schools in towns. Do you happen to know if that information is available? I think readers would be interested in knowing what the annual vandalism and theft costs are in our district. Thanks
Ramsey Resident with kids January 23, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Ramsey Parent, I didn't realize most every school in NJ has these $500k camera systems. I could understand if most inner city schools had them. Curious do you work in a similar school district like Ramsey's? I don't believe we have a vandalism or theft problem in our school district. It certainly has never been a topic of debate before? Maybe the board should provide us taxpayers with the annual loss to these activities? As it pertains to bullying I don't believe cameras will solve that problem and generally speaking those unfortunate activities are witnessed by other students and can support victims claim. I am certain cameras would not have prevented the unfortunate situation at the Smith school several years ago. I believe the district settled for $4mm. Educating our children about bullying will help deter in conjunction with the school taking action not cameras. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/2012/04/18/nj-bullys-paralyzing-punc_n_1435176.html I understand the residents will be divided on this issue. It would be helpful if the BOE would produce vandalism and theft costs for the last several years. Please don't take my comments to you personally, just looking to debate a $500k capital investment.
Jessica Mazzola January 23, 2013 at 11:48 PM
I wasn't arguing your point, I just wanted to let you know that the company did talk about nighttime filming. Last night, the board just used anecdotal evidence about vandalism, graffiti, theft, etc. But, here is an article on a report from the state citing those numbers: http://ramsey-nj.patch.com/articles/ramsey-schools-report-violence-vandalism-weapons-and-substance-abuse
Tobor the 8th Man January 24, 2013 at 12:47 AM
You should know that the senior class has trashed the school on opening day and last day of schoo for at least the past 6 years. You should also know that the damage was quickly covered up and the superintendent downplayed the incidents at the public meetings. Two years ago they climbed the clock tower and painted graffiti on all 4 sides. Until this year, there was no collective punishment, so it continued. This year, seniors had their homecoming dance postponed for a few months. Big deal. Admins do not wish to face angry parents whose kids need disciplining. These parents threaten lawsuits these days. So no prom cancellations, and seniors continue to take not one, or two, or even three cuts days. Two years ago they were out 4 days. Again, no repercussions.
Grem January 24, 2013 at 02:22 AM
Unfortunately the criminals that vandalized the school like they did back in Sept, would probably not be deterred by cameras that they know are not monitered. In England youth simply wear a "hoody" to disguise from constant serveillance. What good is it to look at a video after the fact, if the offender can't be identified? Ramsey parent, I am curious if the caught criminals in your district were dumb enough not to disguise themselves or do they actually have a system already in place that is being monitored by the PD?

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