Thursday, December 12, 2002

Cape schools ask for security cameras

Published in the Current

Citing intermittent but costly vandalism problems, the Cape Elizabeth School Department is asking for a $10,000 security camera system to be installed at the high school. The request comes in the schools’ capital improvement budget requests, reviewed by the Finance Committee Tuesday and sent to the Town Council for its review.

The system would be capable of monitoring up to 16 cameras, according to Facilities Manager Ernie MacVane, who told the Finance Committee the system will improve security “in areas that do not have supervision” around the high school.

He said he would expect to install only three or four cameras, in the industrial arts wing, the lobby outside the gym and auditorium, near the locker rooms and one possibly outside, looking at a grassy area in the rear of the building.

Those are all locations, MacVane said, where vandalism and damage costs are adding up.

“We are finding that we have these episodes of significant damage,” he said. Often incidents are several weeks apart, so they are hard to look out for, he said.

“Most of the damage is after school,” he said.

Superintendent Tom Forcella said the system would include videotape capabilities, so if vandalism was noticed or damage occurred, school officials could review the tape to see who was involved.

The system could be monitored in the main office, and the cameras would be installed in domes that would look somewhat like smoke detectors, MacVane said. Signs would be installed notifying people that they are being videotaped, he said, and he wants the cameras to be visible as a deterrent.

“I wouldn’t want it to be secretive,” he said.

Cameras in the school, he said, could catch people doing damage to ceiling tiles or other school facilities, as well as taping people who enter the building who are not students or staff .

“We have our share of walk-ins,” MacVane said.

Cameras outside could get descriptions and license plate numbers of cars that periodically have driven around on the school lawn, damaging the

“It would be nice to show them the tape after (an incident) and recover our costs,” MacVane said.

Another outside camera may be located on the Community Center building, with a view of the road between that building and the high school, MacVane said. There is also conduit for a cable to carry that camera’s view to the police station, where it could be viewed by dispatchers.

Forcella said that camera location was proposed because of an incident earlier in the year when three trees were cut down at the high school during the early hours of the morning.

School Board member Kevin Sweeney said he was concerned about trying to outsmart kids with the cameras.

MacVane said he could install multiple camera housings and fewer actual cameras. The cameras could then be moved around without students’ knowledge.

School Board member Georg e Entwistle suggested the investment might pay for itself in preventing damage or recovering costs from vandals. He also said the school should be careful about how the system was described.