Once considered a safe haven for students, in recent years school campuses have become targets for acts of violence, terrorist threats, abductions, drug abuse, thefts, vandalism and more. Realizing this, officials at Los Angeles County’s Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD) are taking steps to make sure all staff and students are well protected.
Posted on the district’s Web site are core beliefs, the first of which states: “Each person has the right to be safe.” So, when Ted Yant became security supervisor for CCUSD and its nine locations — five elementary schools, a middle school, a high school, a continuation school and an adult school that contains 7,500 students — he was willing to meet that challenge head-on.
However, with an outdated, 10-year-old analog surveillance system, it was difficult for Yant and his nine-member security team to keep tabs on what was happening at each campus. For example, the CCUSD security team uncovered a drug culture within the middle school and high school, which are attached to each other. In one incident, the system captured a student selling illegal substances on campus. But when it was time to prosecute the students, the district was in for a rude awakening.
“We were able to see the actual drug product being transferred from one person to the other,” Yant says. “But when we played back the recorded video for evidentiary purposes, the frames containing the sale were not present. The system was deemed inefficient because the video quality and playback left too many gaps in the recorded events.”
Additionally, two of the district’s elementary schools were targets of back-to-back burglaries, which resulted in the loss of $15,000 in iMac computers. The incidents prompted the CCUSD to upgrade its surveillance system and integrate an access control solution that would help the security team effectively monitor its campuses.
Access Control Beats Out IP Video
Yant is no stranger to the public safety and security field, as he has 22 years of combined military, security and law enforcement experience. He has also served seven years with the Culver City Police Department (CCPD), where he currently operates as a reserve police officer. His background provided Yant an idea of what type of system the district needed to successfully protect all campuses.
Unfortunately, there was a hiccup in the plan. In addition to seeking a better video surveillance solution, the district discovered another problem that needed addressing in an expeditious fashion. The CCUSD often leases out Culver City High School’s gymnasiums and the Robert Frost Auditorium, a community landmark, to private groups and organizations. Some people were accessing the facilities without the proper permit, so the district decided to install an access control solution to monitor who comes in and out. However, district officials informed Yant there was not enough money in the budget for a complete security upgrade that included both video surveillance and access control. As a result, Yant opted to install the access control solution over a surveillance system.
Enter Steve Bowcut, an integrated solutions specialist (ISS) for ASSA ABLOY, who helped Yant choose the Sargent Profile Series v.S1 power over Ethernet (PoE) cylindrical locks and exit devices for the school’s gyms. The devices connect to the high school’s Ethernet network and offer real-time door status monitoring and lockdown capabilities.
Additionally, Yant picked HID Global’s Edge IP access control solution to keep unwanted vehicles from driving onto the high school campus. It also uses a PoE connection allowing a single Category-5 cable to power and operate a proximity card reader and lockset.
“We have a gate that leads to the blacktop by the basketball courts and athletic facilities, and we were having a lot of issues with cars coming on there during school hours,” he says. “The system we formerly had in place consisted of a key. Anyone could access our gate and come onto the property.”
Selecting a System ‘Backbone’
During his meetings with Bowcut, Yant learned that the district would need an infrastructure backbone to control the locks. With Yant on a tight budget, Bowcut set up demonstration meetings with three security management systems companies that handle access control solutions. In the end, Yant selected Carlsbad, Calif.-based Next Level Security Systems, a developer of unified, networked security solutions, because its product allowed the district to integrate access control and video surveillance.
Available in three versions (500, 3000 and 5000), the NLSS Gateway integrates video management, access control, video analytics and intrusion detection into a single networked platform that users can access at any time through a standard Web browser.
“Everything is on the network, and they are being powered by a PoE adapter,” Next Level Western Regional Sales Manager Marco Sanchez says. “Users can plug the NLSS Gateway on the same adapter on the network, and the Gateway will auto discover all the cameras and access control locks. Because it’s browser-based, additional software is not required.”
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