Big Blazer is watching . . .


Dec. 10, 2001, midnight | By Tina Peng | 19 years, 6 months ago

Security cameras help to curb fights, theft, vandalism


Thirty-two cameras located on school premises have helped security identify and apprehend the perpetrators of discipline policy infractions such as vandalism, theft, fights and truancy for the past 22 months, according to school officials.

Installed in March of 2000, the cameras have been used to monitor both highly populated and "more vulnerable" spots, according to Business Manager Anne Alban. She said the screening devices speed up security's situation-response times. "Usually if it's a fight or other altercation we can see it as it's happening, and we can deploy people to that area," said Alban.

As part of a countywide initiative, each MCPS high school has installed 20 cameras throughout its building. Due to its large size, Blair was allotted 12 extra cameras. The cameras are on 24 hours a day, and while the four television screens in Alban's office are not monitored all the time, they are capable of instant playback. Security guards use them when determining the culprits of a known incident.

Security Team Leader Edward Reddick attributed security guards' success in preventing discipline infractions to the cameras. According to Reddick and Alban, the cameras have recorded students damaging the building, turning over trash cans in the SAC, engaging in fights and committing theft.

The cameras also help Reddick and the security team track wandering strangers. "Sometimes if we happen to be [in the office] and we see someone trespassing or attempting to trespass, the cameras help us follow their actions better than if we sent someone down to follow them," he said.

Alban added that trespassers attempt to enter campus "a couple of times a week."

The two men who broke into a parked car in the student parking lot on Oct 16 were caught on film by a camera located on the building's exterior. Security guards used the tape to help arrest the suspects, and submitted it as evidence.

Galbraith was pleased with the speed with which the suspects were apprehended. "I was pretty impressed that the security guards caught them so quickly," he said.

Additionally, the security system is used as a tool to prevent students from leaving campus. When senior Raphael Esparza and a friend attempted to leave school grounds during first block on Nov 16, they were repeatedly headed off by security guards. Security guard Harry Wacke finally confronted them, saying, "‘You're forgetting the security cameras,'" recalled Esparza. Administrators later told him that they had been monitoring his and his friend's progress around the school. "Supposedly they were tracking our every move via the security cameras," he said.

Mark Curran, head of the Safety Committee, said the security system also makes fire drills and other evacuations more effective. "It allows me to isolate trouble areas," he said. "I can watch the hallways and see if there is a backup." When Curran monitored the security cameras during the Nov 14 Code Blue drill, he found the system helpful. "It was very useful for timing and in locating mistakes," he said.

Alban believes that the cameras have aided school officials in hindering the violation of school rules. "Through the security cameras, walkie-talkies and good communication with administrators, security and the faculty, we're able to prevent situations from happening," she said.

In an informal Silver Chips survey of 100 students taken in the SAC between Nov 26 and 28, 78 said that the cameras did not deter them from committing infractions such as stealing soda from vending machines.
Freshman Priya Pillai, however, said that the security system has caused her to become more self-conscious when walking through the halls. "When I think I'm all alone in the hall, and I look up and see the security camera, it's kind of creepy because you think you're doing something wrong," she said.

Reddick and Alban agree that the security system gives students a heightened sense of self-awareness and makes them hesitant to break school rules when they are unsure whether a camera is focused upon them.

However, some students ignore the cameras due to their inconspicuous size. "The security cameras are not intimidating," said freshman Jackie Villadsen. "They're not very noticeable."

Others, like sophomore Lino Martinez, say because they have never been caught breaking school rules, they do not worry that the cameras could be taping their actions.



Tags: print

Tina Peng. Tina is a very sagely senior who likes journalism and other things. She cringes when she thinks of her avidly pro-Backstreet Boys bio of last year, but hopes that that will have been forgotten by now. Tina would like to grow up and become a … More »

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