Baltimore County to expand school security

Baltimore Co plans to spend millions on more school security.

Baltimore County officials announced plans Tuesday to spend $9.8 million over the next three years to expand the school security system by outfitting every public school with surveillance cameras and secure doors.

By the end of the program, officials said, every public school would have a network of surveillance cameras that police could monitor remotely. Every school door would be locked and require an identification card to open.

Some of the technology is already in place in many schools as part of a security overhaul that began after a shooting by a student on the first day of classes at Perry Hall High School in 2012 that injured another student.

"We've been on this journey for quite some time, and we're not going to stop," said Dallas Dance, superintendent of schools.

Dance was joined at a news conference at West Towson Elementary School by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Police Chief Jim Johnson and other officials. A police officer demonstrated the surveillance system, showing pictures of Riderwood Elementary School in Towson.

Johnson said the surveillance cameras — which officers can view securely on tablets and smartphones — will be a "force multiplier" for police, allowing officers to keep an eye on more territory more efficiently. Officers can also view school blueprints on the system, called "OneView."

Elementary schools already have the surveillance cameras. The new money will allow middle schools and high schools to convert from lower-quality analog cameras to the OneView system.

All schools have locked front doors that require visitors to buzz into the front office to gain access, as well as a system that scans visitors' driver's licenses to check against sex offender lists. Elementary schools also have badges for students and staff that allow them to enter locked front doors.

The new project will extend the badge system to middle schools and high schools, and add all school doors — not just front doors — to the system.

"This is making use of technology to its fullest extent," Kamenetz said.

The first round of OneView cameras and badge door system cost the county $3.7 million.

To fund the security upgrades, Kamenetz is proposing a supplemental budget of $2.5 million for the current government budget year that the Baltimore County Council will be asked to approve. The $2.5 million will come from undesignated funds in the current county budget.

County Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, said he expects the council will approve the $2.5 million at its Nov. 3 meeting.

Kamenetz pledged to include the rest of the money in the next two budget cycles: $3.2 million in fiscal 2016 and $4.1 million in fiscal 2017. Kamenetz, a Democrat, is running for re-election against Republican George Harman.

pwood@baltsun.com

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