In this 2012 file photo following the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., two patrol cars sit outside of Benefield Elementary School in Lawrenceville. Gwinnett Police agreed to work with Gwinnett County Public Schools to have officers at local schools following the incident.
LAWRENCEVILLE — Details of a second security upgrade this year to Gwinnett schools were announced on Wednesday, and the system is touted as a way to increase response times.
A partnership between the Gwinnett County Police Department, Gwinnett County Public Schools and Buford City Schools was further explained one day after Gwinnett commissioners said the emergency system could be funded by an upcoming sales tax vote on Nov. 5.
The proposed system would include cameras at each of the 132 schools in the GCPS district and the four Buford schools that would be activated by a button during an emergency. The live feed from cameras at the school would be directly sent to the Gwinnett County 911 Center where 911 call-takers would provide real-time information to first responders. Officials said the cameras would only turn on when a distress button was activated.
The system would be paid for from the $5 million SPLOST funds designated for public safety if voters extend the program for three more years.
GCPS’ existing feed with cameras at schools sends video to the school district’s police department. Another standing policy at the district is that all of the doors at each school are locked during the day, except for the front doors, where someone is stationed at a check-in desk.
Gwinnett County Police Chief Charles Walters said at a press conference at the 911 Center that the SPLOST vote is the only way to provide funds for this system.
The announcement comes five months after the Gwinnett County Board of Education approved plans for GCPS to hire about 18 more school resource officers — one more per cluster — as part of the fiscal year 2014 budget. Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks created a task force following the Newtown, Conn. incident in December to review the district’s safety processes and procedures. Hiring the additional SROs came from the task force’s meetings.
“We have 132 schools, I don’t think 18 more officers is going to stretch,” said Bobby Crowson, interim associate superintendent for the division of school improvement and operations. “We would love to have one for each school, we do not. However, this response would be able to send police officers who are in the vicinity immediately to a school to assist our own safety and security officers already there.”
Crowson said officials spent a lot of time thinking about the type of event that would cause the system to be triggered, and there would be a great deal of staff development on the protocol and use of the system.
Walters said he could not elaborate on the location of the button, or how many cameras would be installed, because it could compromise the system’s effectiveness. More details would be learned if the vote is approved.
“We know how much cameras cost, and can estimate how many schools there are,” Walters said. “Once the money is approved, you look at what you can afford and what technology is available.”
If approved, Crowson said this system would ensure an environment that’s free of risk and safety concerns.
“It will tremendously increase the response time,” Crowson said. “And the fact that we cannot have a police officer on every campus right now given the budget concerns that we do have, and the available resources, this would be an incredible benefit to us in the response time and the depth of the pool of the responders.”
Police Chief Charlie Walters announces partnership with schools
Gwinnett County Police Chief Charlie Walters announces a partnership with Gwinnett County Public Schools and Buford City Schools to upgrade the public safety emergency notification system.