Sign Of Times: NJ School Cameras Fed Live To Cops
Demarest School District Installs Laptop Surveillance Videos Monitored, Operated By Local Police

CBS | November 12, 2007

DEMAREST, N.J. (CBS) - Surveillance cameras rolling inside our local schools is nothing new, but what's taking place inside Demarest's public schools is truly cutting edge: a live feed from more than two dozen cameras with a direct connection to the police.

It's an expensive, but effective tool that could be a sign of the times with an increase in school shootings over the years.

The system, which cost about $28,000, can even track movement in a crowded room.

"When they arrive, they can pull up the school's live feed and do a sweep instantly," Demarest Police Chief James Powderley tells CBS 2.

Patrolling officers have access to the video feed from headquarters and several laptops. To address privacy concerns, all of the cameras are installed in public areas and are not equipped to pick up audio.

The video capabilities are extremely impressive. Each of the laptops can pick up 16 different angles at one time, turning a single operator into a mobile surveillance team.

In an emergency situation, Powderley says the cameras -- complete with zoom and pan functions -- also cut down search and response times. "One officer has 17 eyes in multiple locations. It's amazing," he says.

Schools Superintendent Larry Hughes says if nothing else, the ability to digitally timestamp and archive the video should discourage bad, even criminal behavior.

"It doesn't hurt that people know and that if something is going to take place at your facility, if it does deter people from doing that, it's an added benefit," says Hughes.

Students seem pleased with the high-tech devices.

"I would want the police to be there right away if something happened to our school. Especially with all these bomb scares happening now, I know the high school had a couple," says one student.

Plans are already underway to install a more advanced system in Northern Valley High school, which can alert a patrolling officer when someone is in distress or suddenly falls down.