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Secret cameras installed

Posted By Denebola On February 15, 2011 @ 7:05 am In 50th Edition,News | Comments Disabled

By Jason Kuo
and Nathan Yeo,
Volume 47
December 19, 2007

Without notifying the public, administrators in the Newton Public Schools installed five security cameras at Newton South at the beginning of the 2007 school year.
According to Principal Brian Salzer, the Newton Public Schools installed the cameras in response to an increase of vandalism and theft last year, in which several boy’s bathrooms were vandalized and items were stolen from locker rooms. The cameras are not yet operational, and Salzer is unsure when the installation will be completed. Technicians recently installed software that would allow his computer to view the camera footage from the past 31 days.
Two cameras are located near the locker rooms and are enclosed in black translucent domes. Three others are in halls around the school and are disguised as smoke detectors. They have clear views of bathrooms that school administrators believe are at most risk of vandalism.If a bathroom is vandalized, Salzer could access footage on his computer from one of the three cameras pointed at bathrooms around the school. Similarly, if there is an incident of theft in the locker room, he can review footage from the two cameras outside of the locker rooms.
According to Salzer, only he, Superintendent Jeff Young, Director of Public Facilities Mike Cronin, and a small security team were aware of the cameras. They did not inform faculty members, and the Newton Fire and Police Departments are not involved in their operations.
“It’s just us trying to keep the school safe for you, Salzer said.
Young and Cronin declined to comment.
The School Committee was not informed beforehand of the decision to install the cameras. A few committee members, including Chair Dori Zaleznik and Vice-Chair Marc Laredo, only recently learned of the decision. Contacted by Denebola, they declined to comment until they had more information.
Salzer wanted to inform the South community about the cameras in order to deter future vandalism, rather than catch vandals in the act.
“My school of thought is to tell everyone about them, show how they work, in order to discourage vandalism,” he said. “I’d rather have kids know that there are cameras. I don’t like playing the ‘gotcha’ game.”
Newton Public Schools administrators, however, chose not to make a public statement about the installation of the cameras. Salzer was not a part of the decision to install the cameras during the summer.
Salzer nevertheless believes that surveillance cameras can be effective tools for administrators.
He recalled an incident last year where a custodian found graffiti in a bathroom that was still dripping paint. Salzer believes that if South administrators had access to securities cameras at the time, they would have easily apprehended the vandal or vandals.
Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Massachusetts Sarah Wunsch notes that, while the legalities of putting surveillance cameras in schools without notifying the public is a rather gray area, South’s installation is “at the very least, an awful thing to do.”
Wunsch questions the effectiveness of surveillance cameras. Wunsch finds that, in deterring crime, surveillance cameras have a poor track record.
“Studies tend to show police video monitoring has had little or no effect on reducing crime,” she wrote in a statement for the ACLU. She cited that in Britain, although the government placed cameras throughout the region, there has actually been an increase in the amount of violent crime.
South Senator and Sophomore Luckmini Liyanage also expressed opposition to the use of cameras that the public was uninformed about.
“I think it’s preposterous that cameras were installed without telling students,” she said. “Students have a right to know.”

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2011/02/15/secret-cameras-installed/

URLs in this post:

[1] Secret cameras installed: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2007/12/19/cameras/

[2] No more secret security: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/11/26/no-more-secret-security/

[3] Turn off the cameras: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2007/12/19/turn-off-the-cameras/

[4] Administration eyes new secret cameras: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2008/09/24/administration-eyes-new-secret-cameras/

[5] Security issues pose concerns at South: Do security cameras infringe on student rights?: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/05/21/security-issues-pose-concerns-at-south-do-security-cameras-infringe-on-student-rights/

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