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New network will give police live looks inside Weber schools

Published: Sunday, March 17 2013 3:20 p.m. MDT

Weber School District administrators want to improve their surveillance cameras in their schools. They are currently testing out a number of high-end cameras. They hope to use the Ogden City Police Department's Real Time Crime Center to monitor surveillance systems inside Weber schools.

Joe DeLuca, Deseret News

OGDEN — The Weber School District plans to begin work this summer on a new surveillance network that will allow police a live look inside schools — even from their smart phones.

The system will eventually include roughly 1,000 digital cameras across 45 schools, said district spokesman Nate Taggart. They would be patched into the Ogden Police Real Time Crime Center, which could serve as a nerve center to guide officers from multiple agencies in the event of an emergency.

“We need to be able to have law enforcement have access to our school security cameras,” Taggart said.

Currently, district officials said, most schools use analog cameras with less-than-optimal resolution.

“These are all IP cameras, which will have three to four times the resolution, so you can pick out faces,” said district systems engineer Casey Dalpias. “We have to find ones that will be for every situation with low light, hallways, cafeterias.”

Dalpias said the district is currently testing several cameras — including a thermal imaging model. Because the price per unit is $3,000, Dalpias said thermal imaging cameras aren’t likely to surface in the schools.

None of the current individual school surveillance systems communicate with each other, although Taggart said all efforts will be made to continue using existing cameras that could be adapted into the new network.

Taggart said the district has worked closely with Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham and Weber County Sheriff Terry Thompson to design and develop a state-of-the-art network.

“What this will allow for us is that all of the systems will connect to the same server, giving us the opportunity to have consistency in how we’re able to view inside of the schools in case there’s a circumstance,” Whinham said Thursday.

That capability could allow officers to access the video inside their police cruisers, or even potentially on their smart phones, said Ogden police deputy director of administrative services John Harvey.

Harvey said Ogden’s Real Time Crime Center is aiming for connections with multiple school districts. The center could operate as a high-tech command post for a more sophisticated operation involving a school intruder or an active shooter.

“It’s really something we should have been doing a long time ago,” Harvey said.

The crime center is also now capable of processing a real time stream of data based on queued emergency calls.

“For high priority types of calls, text messages are sent out to the Real Time Crime Center and to certain key people in the department so that we can start investigating the event before we ever (could) in the past,” Harvey said.

Harvey said the potential exists to expand that capability to include the schools as well.

Taggart said work will likely begin on the network this summer, although the system may not be entirely up and running for a couple of years.

The project is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $550,000, and Taggart said the Weber School Foundation was looking to raise $100,000 online through parents and others in the community.

The foundation has committed to match all donations up to $100,000, Taggart said.

“It’s a good thing for the department and for the school systems to be, working together,” Harvey said.

E-mail: aadams@ksl.com

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