Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Cameras watch for trouble

by John Halverson

May 31, 2012

There are five monitors in a room at Badger High School that no one watches until there’s a problem.

On all but one of the monitors, the screens are broken up into smaller screens-68 in all.

On those screens there’s the coming and going of students and, sometimes, just pictures of an empty hallway.

These are the eyes of the administration. There are eyes at Big Foot High School, too. There, they have 30 “channels” of bustling hallways or empty ones depending on the moment.

In-school surveillance cameras have been around for awhile now. Thirteen years at Badger and about 20 at Big Foot. The cameras patrol the hallways and byways of students, watch who is coming and going and keep an eye outside the building as well.

School administrators say they’re a great help when a commotion breaks out or when a theft is reported.

For instance, Badger Principal Bob Kopydlowski has a ready response for students wanting to point fingers after an altercation. “Now I just ask: Do we have to show the video?”

Prior to the camera system, sorting out such situations took time and energy.

“It would take staff time and cut into classes,” Kopydlowski said. “

No more.

Kopydlowski called the cameras a great “forensic tool.”

Big Foot Principal Mike Hinske agrees.

The cameras were first installed at Big Foot to help protect district computers. More cameras were added as the years went on. Now there are 30 cameras keeping an eye out for trouble.

Since the inception of the cameras and with the support of the district, he’s become more involved in the school safety community. Not only has he worked within Big Foot but his expertise has allowed him to work with other districts through the Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association. Hinske is a lead instructor for the organization.

His experience at Big Foot, “whet my appetite,” Hinske said.

While surveillance cameras cause quite a stir-including protests supported by the ACLU- when they were proposed for public areas, that hasn’t been the case at area schools. Neither principal can recall any sort of public outcry.

The students, they say, know they’re there. That’s at least somewhat of a deterrent, but not a problem.

The surveillance cameras were part of a discussion at the last Big Foot board meeting when assistant principal Brian Lawton, was discussing how the school deals with theft problems. While there was approval for a reward program for students giving tips to authorities, Lawton said the best defense against theft remained the surveillance cameras.

While there are no cameras in locker rooms, where thefts often occur, they do monitor who is coming and going. That helps narrow the field of possible offenders.

While the cameras work, Hinske pointed out that there’s still a staff role in security.

“The cameras are not a be all and end all,” he said.