Caddo Mills

Caddo Cameras

Louisiana school system upgrades to megapixel surveillance system

Caddo CamerasIn northwest Louisiana, with a total population of approximately 260,000 people, Shreveport is the parish seat for Caddo. Its school system, Caddo Parish Public Schools, is comprised of 70 elementary, middle, high and special function schools.

The schools have made a major commitment to implementing IP video surveillance throughout the entire district, an ongoing project being managed and installed by Stanley Security Solutions.

School Consolidation Motivates Higher-level Surveillance

Prior to upgrading to IP megapixel surveillance, Caddo schools employed a range of surveillance technologies from different makers that varied from campus to campus. Steve White, director of construction and capital projects for Caddo Schools, noted that they suffered from storage limitations with old DVR technology.

“We would view something on a Friday, and come Monday, when we decided we wanted to see it again, the event had already been over-written,” White said.

The move to unify and upgrade all surveillance technologies started in the summer of 2011 and was given a firm push by the need to consolidate a number of the parish’s schools.

“We had some under-used high schools, so we closed some middle schools and combined the students, putting grades seven through twelve together to get our building use rates up to where we needed them to be,” White said. “This new situation presented us with some challenges, because now we had much younger students in the same building with juniors and seniors.”

To remedy potential issues, the school district set up separate entrances for middle and high school students with sections of each school building designated only for middle and high school students. During the consolidation, district officials put out a bid to bring in new video surveillance technology that would enable them to keep a close eye on things in the five new combined middle and high schools.

Major Investment in Megapixel

Around this time, federal stimulus monies became available, and Caddo decided that a large portion of those funds should be used to upgrade video surveillance in all the parish’s schools, not just at the newly-combined schools.

“In the five original schools, we initially installed a major name brand camera,” White said. “After a while, we realized these cameras were expensive, and we should be able to do better at that level of investment.”

For the new expansion phase, Caddo selected IQinVision HD megapixel cameras for roll-out to all 69 school campuses and the main administration campus in the summer 2012.

“These new HD megapixel cameras were a big step forward for us,” White said.

The number of megapixel cameras deployed in the elementary schools is the smallest, running about 100 cameras. Middle schools require approximately 150- 200 cameras, and high schools often deploy 300 or more.

Caddo Parish has installed around 4,000 cameras to date, and approximately 7,000 total HD megapixel cameras will be deployed once the project is completed. Dome, durable, outdoor models were selected with camera resolutions ranging from 1-MP up to 5-MP, depending upon the area of coverage and desired image quality goals. White estimates that 80 percent of the cameras will be installed inside the many school buildings with the remaining 20 percent outside to watch grounds, parking lots and other facilities.

System Deployment

The Caddo Parish Schools security department, along with each school’s resource officer, monitors video and performs post-event investigations. Each campus has access only to its own camera views. Both White’s and Murray’s departments and the Caddo Parish superintendent have access to all camera views, which are managed by video management software. White’s department is in charge of system installation and network monitoring to ensure that everything remains in good working order.

The new, upgraded IP video system is meeting Caddo’s needs in terms of image quality and coverage, and it’s a breath of fresh air from their old technology.

“I can’t tell you the number of times we had failures with the prior system,” White said.

Murray reports that cameras are deployed to monitor all common areas, hallways, cafeterias and auditoriums “where students congregate, entrances and exits, too; but we do not monitor in the classrooms,” he said.

Cameras have become an important force multiplier.

“We use the cameras to keep an eye out where we don’t have staff, checking if students are leaving campus from where they aren’t supposed to and monitoring gates for unwanted visitors,” White said.

Staff members also monitor burglar alarms after hours to guard against trespassing.

New Surveillance Capability Paying Off

Both White and Roy Murray, director of security, report that a number of criminal and non-criminal incidents are regularly investigated and solved using their new IP video surveillance capability. For items that are taken or misplaced around the schools, the vast majority are successfully retrieved because security staff now have the image quality needed to make positive IDs on those involved in such incidents.

“The video tells the whole, unbiased truth,” Murray said. “We no longer have to deal with ‘he said, she said.’ We know what actually happened in the incidents we are investigating. Our cameras represent an unbiased third party.”

The security department reviews video to investigate missing property, vandalism and altercations. Video is used to evaluate if certain instances actually happened when reported, and in instances where a student might accuse a teacher or staff member of an improper action, the video can also serve to exonerate.

“Of course, we use our video surveillance capabilities for security,” Murray said, “but our risk management folks use it to check the validity of slip and fall claims. Our principals use it to aid them in managing discipline. We use the system for a whole range of purposes.”

Once the current phase of implementation is completed and all Caddo Parish’s schools have been covered, Murray and White intend to return to where it all started—the five original schools—to retrofit them with HD megapixel cameras and to unify those schools into what will be a very impressive, connected network of cameras, stretching from one end of the parish school district all the way to the other, with 69 school campuses in between.

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Security Today.

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