Dec. 7, 2004 With school security a constant worry, the Education Department, in conjunction with the Police Department and the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, has installed surveillance cameras at five of the territory's public schools.
Education Department spokesman Ginny Dargan declined to name the schools.
"We don't want the criminal element to know," she said.
However, Police Department spokesman Sgt. Thomas Hannah said they are all St. Croix schools.
It is a pilot program fully funded by the federal government. Hannah put the price tag at $338,000. Earlier, there were fears the territory might lose the funds because the Education Department could not afford to hire personnel to monitor the cameras. (See the St. Croix Source story "Video Surveillance to Go Ahead at Five Schools").
Dargan said the surveillance cameras were installed in November. So far, no one's been arrested as a result of the surveillance.
She and Hannah both said that as funds permit, surveillance cameras will be installed in more schools. Eventually, all the territory's schools will have them.
Hannah said surveillance cameras should help the Police Department secure the schools against property and violent crime.
"We are short-staffed. We need assistance," Hannah said.
Education Commissioner Noreen Michael said in a news release that school security is a priority.
"We hope to see a dramatic reduction in school break-ins as well as the immediate recognition of unauthorized individuals on campus," she said.
She was not available for further comment.
Lisa Etre, who teaches at Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas, isn't so sure surveillance cameras will help.
She said, instead, students should be searched randomly in the classrooms to look for contraband.
Etre said she hopes surveillance cameras will identify intruders. She said it's easy for intruders to get on the campus, especially if they're wearing a school uniform.
She said the crime situation at Eudora Kean is getting worse.
"You have no idea what kids bring on campus. They can walk around with anything," she said.
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