Pembroke Pines upgrading security at its 5 charter schools

Re-posting a story from the Sun-Sentinel.

By Brian Ballou

Pembroke Pines is upgrading video surveillance at its five city-run charter schools, installing a $1.2 million digital system that will decrease blind spots and offer much clearer video.

The new system should be up and running by April, with 187 new digital cameras and 113 existing analog cameras that will be converted to digital. City commissioners approved funding last week.

“It’s definitely an improvement over the existing system -- more cameras, more coverage, an additional layer of security,” said Michael Lockett, director of information technology.

Like most other school video surveillance systems, it won’t be monitored all day. But the system gives staff the ability to quickly check all angles should a threat occur. Video will be automatically recorded.

The city held a walk-through with police, school staff and other professionals to determine the best layout for the cameras, providing 40 percent more coverage than the current system, officials said.

“Anytime we can implement something like this to protect our students, I’m all for it,” said Pines Mayor Frank Ortis.

The system includes indoor and outdoor cameras with covers, ‘bullet cameras’ that are slim and focused on one specific area, and cameras that offer a 360-degree view.

A big chunk of the expense is a wiring upgrade to go with the new state-of-the-art system. The cameras cost approximately $707,000 and the wiring costs about $465,000. The upgrade has about a 16-year lifespan, Lockett said.

Pines’ runs its own charter school system, which is A-rated. There are two K-5 schools, two K-8 schools and the Academic Village, a 6-12 grade school at SW 172nd Avenue and Sheridan Street. The middle-high school would get the most cameras, about 95.

Law enforcement officials say surveillance systems are a vital tool in threat assessment.

There was a recent string of scares at Broward County Schools related to possible firearms on campus, including one at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs. While it turned out to be a student with a toy gun, the school was on lockdown for hours as dozens of police officers scoured the campus.