- By Joey Rao Russell
- Jul 01, 2013
When two former students of the Ceres Unified School District in Ceres, Calif., shattered a window of a high school classroom recently one weekend, intending to gain entry, vandalize and ransack the room, they had no idea their private conversation was being heard by another party as they went about the illicit raid.
School district administrators had recently installed a verified audio intrusion detection system by Sonitrol, a pioneering electronic security system that, through the use of unique, impact-activated audio technology, triggers an alarm when dissonant noises are made on-site. Once the alarm is triggered, in this case, by the sounds of glass breaking and the intruders’ voices in an otherwise empty building, monitoring professionals at the nearby central station are alerted and able to listen to the space in real time, to determine whether a crime is in progress. In this instance, based on the nature of the sounds and recorded conversation, the monitoring specialist at the nearby Fresno central station could clearly hear evidence of an unauthorized intrusion and immediately dispatched local law enforcement and school district authorities to the site.
“When we arrived, the two intruders were in the midst of walking out of the building, with computers and stolen property in hand,” said Keith Gibson, assistant director of Maintenance and Operations for Ceres Unified School District. “At that point, it was absolutely clear that we’d caught them red-handed.”
Thanks to the proof provided by the verified audio intrusion detection system, the responding police officers and Gibson were able to take it one step further when the criminals tried to maintain their innocence.
“While the offenders were standing in front of us, we recited the conversations they’d just had while vandalizing the classroom,” Gibson said. “When we asked, ‘Which one of you wanted to rip out the ceiling projector?’ they were completely shocked. We hadn’t even entered the building yet and, because of the audio recorded at the central monitoring station, we already knew the general scope of the damage they’d done.”
That crucial audio information, which alerted law enforcement in the first place, would now also serve as the primary and indisputable evidence in prosecuting the perpetrators. For the Ceres Unified School District, which currently includes 21 K-12 schools, with plans to open at least three more in the next two years, and more than 12,300 students, this was a victory after a long and constant history of campus vandalisms and burglaries.
“Before we installed this system, we were getting hit relentlessly with property damage and loss,” Gibson said. “We certainly credit these kinds of success stories to the audio verification alarm technology we have in place in our facilities. With Sonitrol, we know our schools are better protected with the peace of mind that, if anyone were to be daring enough to try to break in, we’ll know immediately and be able to stop it before anything gets out of hand.”
Summer Increase in School Vandalism
Because it is summer, many school districts are preparing for an increase in on-campus crime and vandalism. Attending students, faculty and most security officers will largely be off-site for the next few months, leaving the doors locked, but ostensibly wide open to criminals looking for an easy opportunity.
However, for school facilities that have implemented live verified audio intrusion detection systems, summertime can be spent worry-free, instead of being concerned about schools’ vulnerability to crime when classrooms are left vacant.
Verified audio intrusion detection technology provides 100 percent, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling protection. Unlike conventional alarm systems, which may rely on door switches and motion sensors to trigger an alarm transmission, audio-based verified alarms secure all points of entry, including windows, vents, ceilings and roofs.
“Not every criminal just goes walking right through the door during a break-in,” Gibson said. “In fact, most criminals don’t. This system allows us to hear all types of forced entry attempts, whether it’s someone trespassing on the roof, breaking a window, prying open a vent; we hear it all. Most times, we’re able to stop anyone before they can even get into the building.
“Before installing audio verification technology, unless someone tried to force through a door, we were often unaware of classroom damage or stolen property that had occurred over the weekend until Monday morning,” Gibson said. “And, by then, it was a complete disruption to the students’ learning environment and activities. This way, with audio alarm verification, we can catch the bad guys the moment anything happens; students are able to operate efficiently in the morning, and we’re able to, more easily, maintain our facilities in order to provide our students with an inviting, clean atmosphere.”
More than Cameras
School districts, often mistakenly, believe that the scope of their security system needs start and end with cameras and video surveillance. But in reality, burglars can duck out of sight of cameras and, when reviewing security footage after an incident occurs, it doesn’t always guarantee the recovery of damaged or stolen property. The key benefits to impact-activated audio security systems lie in the technology’s ability to monitor an entire space in real-time, allowing for early detection of an intrusion and a much quicker law enforcement response time to more immediately apprehend suspects.
For schools packed with expensive equipment and necessary learning technologies, advanced audio verification is the ideal solution to significantly reduce on-site vandalism and property loss.
The fact remains that these systems save substantial time, money and assets for all districts that have opted to integrate them into their schools’ infrastructures. With its high apprehension rates and capability to simultaneously verify an alarm and relay critical, real-time information on crimes in progress to law enforcement officials, live verified audio intrusion detection is truly the here-and-now in comprehensive educational facility security coverage.
“We’ve had great success with the advanced audio intrusion detection technology,” said Dr. Scott Siegel, superintendent for the Ceres Unified School District. “We’re looking forward to increasing our Sonitrol participation and widespread use of the technology in our facilities.”
“I’ve been with CUSD for 13 years and I can say the audio intrusion detection system is heads and shoulders above any local alarm company we have ever dealt with,” Gibson said.
“It’s a technology that works,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Security Today.