Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

School Imagery Systems

The January 6, 2005, Baltimore Sun has an article by Sun staff reporter Liz F. Kay headlined, "Digital cameras to help schools focus on security."

The article reports several Baltimore-area school systems are paying as much as $80,000 to buy 32 cameras for one school to get, "...an additional layer of security," according to Richard Berzinski, acting supervisor of security in Anne Arundel. But Berzinski goes on to say the cameras are not used to constantly monitor the students. "We're not sitting there watching the monitors," he said. Rather, the stored images are used in the after-the-fact investigation of incidents on campus.

The Baltimore-area school systems are buying glorified "nanny-cams." They are not buying enhanced security for the children in those school systems.

The difference between security and investigations is significant though often overlooked by prospective clients identifying their expectations for imaging equipment.

Real security is preventive, proactive. The imaging systems described in the Sun's article are preventive only to the extent their presence may deter some action. For these very costly systems to truly perform a valid security function, they must be designed to permit timely intervention, usually by human security officers. It is the security responders, not the imaging systems, that truly prevent the actions, provide security, and protect the children.

Investigations are corrective, reactive, but not protective. Imaging systems used as Mr. Berzinski will use them are not security systems, they are surveillance systems. Their image interpretation will be used after the incident has occurred to identify offenders and document their actions for future disciplinary, civil, or criminal action.

The caution I've given to parents considering "nanny-cams" is appropriate for school systems: If you have an imaging system that records the action but does not generate timely intervention, you may end up with a hauntingly graphic image of your child being injured, abducted, or killed. Are you prepared to live with that?


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