VINELAND – City police and educators have reached a unique security agreement that will allow law enforcement to monitor major incidents by temporarily tapping into surveillance camera systems at local schools.
City police say the system will provide real-time looks at incidents ranging from major fights to intruders in school buildings, making it safer for them to not only respond, but to arrive with appropriate force.
While final terms of the agreement are still to be written, the program will not be used for routine monitoring of local schools, said Sgt. Christopher Fulcher of the Police Department here. Only certain members of the Police Department will have access to the system, he said.
The web-based connection between the Police Department and school district camera systems will also be turned off when the incident is finished, he said.
John Provenzano, the school district’s security chief, said the program should increase safety for police, school district staff and students by giving police a better idea of what they are up against, and where in a particular school the emergency is occurring.
State law requires security agreements between school districts and local police or State Police.
As part of the agreement here, city police have maps showing rooms and hallways in all school buildings, Provenzano said. Police using a school security camera can see the number posted on a door and know exactly where in the school to go upon arrival, he said.
“I’m hoping it will be a safety factor for our schools,” he said.
The local Board of Education approved the proposal last week.
Fulcher, whose duties include overseeing the Police Department’s computer system, said there is no firm date for when local authorities will start tapping into the school security cameras. School and police officials will take what time they need to work out all aspects of the program, he said.
The surveillance camera agreement may be the first of its kind in New Jersey, Fulcher and Provenzo said.
Frank Belluscio, spokesman for the New Jersey School Board Association, could not confirm that, saying the organization has no comprehensive statewide data on the issue.
“But we do not believe that the practice is common,” he said.
Provenzano said he has already been contacted by several school districts in and outside of New Jersey about the program since it was approved by the Board of Education.
Information was not immediately available regarding the number of times city police are called to local schools. Provenzano said calls to city police usually involve fights.
“If it’s out of control and we really need them, then we call them,” said Provenzano, a former police officer.
Fulcher said there was no real issue that prompted the Police Department to approach school district officials with the surveillance camera idea. The original request was to allow police to use the cameras at Vineland High School, but district officials opted to include all schools, he said.
He said the Police Department and school district will not incur any costs in implementing the program