Eyes on Crime



Ellyn Kirtley It would be hard to miss the haphazardly  tangled masses of brightly colored wires protruding from the hallway ceilings earlier this year.  It would also be hard to miss the new, ominous-seeming security cameras clustered around the building.

Wauwatosa West High School previously had several security cameras, but according to School Resource Officer Braun, “[West] had a really antiquated camera system before.”  So, two years ago the Wauwatosa School District began budgeting to purchase a new system of security cameras for all its public schools.
Before purchasing new cameras, Officer Braun and David Prast, the Wauwatosa School District’s Maintenance/Operations Supervisor, looked at the security systems in use in about eight other schools.  They looked at the placement of cameras and asked other districts how long they kept footage from the cameras.
In the end, the school district was only responsible for half the cost of the project because a federal grant from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) was approved.  COPS aids communities in which the local police are involved with and supportive of the area’s schools.

This grant meant the project was able to be completed ahead of schedule.  Jaime Price, the District Technology Coordinator, remarked, “The project was already in the works when we learned about the grant.  So the grant effectively lets us get everything done this year instead of over a period of three years.”
In addition to puchasing  security cameras, the COPS grant has allowed the district the funds to get several card access readers for teachers to use.  “With the card access readers, we can keep the building secure, but a gym teacher can take their kids outside and swipe ther card to get back in,” said Braun.  At this time, each school will receive three to four scanners, but in the future there is a hope that more will be attained by the district.

Due to the serendipitous attainment of this grant, both Wauwatosa West and East high schools will receive thirty security cameras.  The same goes for the local middle schools, Whitman and Longfellow.  Each elementary school in the district will also receive eight to ten cameras.
These security cameras will be placed all around the building, but will be most concentrated in heavily traficked areas, as well as places that have a history of crime.   One such example is the locker-room hallway, which has a history of theft.

Eventually, monitors will be installed so administrators, Superintendent Ertl and eventually the police department, will be able to view footage.  However, this would only be done in event of crimes or emergencies.

Officer Braun anticipates the new system to be extremely beneficial in regards to keeping crime down at West.  Cameras are a very accurate source of evidence.  It also allows school invesitgations to become more efficient.

“Now we can spend maybe five minutes looking at a camera instead of tracking down and interviewing witnesses [to a crime] for two hours,” he said.  “Cameras are also good at preventing things from happening,” he added, “People think if they’re more likely to get caught.”