North Bergen high school “Eye in the Sky” keeps students safe

Behind a closed door in the administrative area of North Bergen High School sits a huge monitor, upon which are displayed dozens of images from throughout the building and vicinity.

The same images can be viewed by the police in real time at the town’s CCTV monitoring center, or even on handheld devices by school personnel.

A similar scenario applies to all the schools in the district. It’s all part of a $1.4 million effort to keep the school children of North Bergen safe and protected.

“Every time the school system can add a layer of security, whether it’s identification cards or uniforms or cameras, it only helps to increase the level of safety on the campus so that eventually they can meet their real goal, which is to give the best learning environment the students can possibly receive,” said Police Chief Robert Dowd.

As an example, “We had an incident last year where a woman came in demanding that her child was assaulted, and when we went to the video, we found out that her child was actually the aggressor,” said Dowd. “We got a girl who pulled the fire alarm too. It was clear she was the one who pulled the fire alarm.”

From analog to digital

The district first installed cameras in the high school about 12 years ago, at a time when thefts from lockers were common. Initially 65 or so cameras went into the hallways and were eventually increased to nearly l00. The cameras were low-resolution, with grainy images stored on clunky videotapes. Still, they served their purpose.

“As soon as word got around that we arrested people who stole things out of lockers, it was unbelievable how the thefts stopped,” recalled Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Solter. “The other thing was fighting in the hallway between students. We were able to see how the fight started so we were able to discipline appropriately. So the safety of the kids was greatly improved.”

Some incidents were caught even with the previous generation of equipment. “The old cameras were replaced entirely,” said School Business Administrator Steve Somick.

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