Schools in northwest London expand security measures
Jan 1, 1998 12:00 PM
Since the harrowing massacre in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996, when a gunman shot and killed 16 young children and their teacher, school security has gained increased attention. Around the world, schools have taken a look at security measures to protect students and teachers. Arson, theft and vandalism of school property are also on the rise, and there is an obvious need to prevent them.
The public inquiry into the Dunblane shootings called for schools to look at areas of security such as individual strengths and weaknesses and the location of schools. It also urged them to consider the installation of stringent security measures such as access control, perimeter protection, adequate lighting and building security, staff and visitor ID.
Northolt, in northwest London, was one of the first schools to respond to this toughening up of security measures. Three schools - junior, infant and special-needs - are situated on one large, sprawling, inner-city site. The site is between two major roads leading into central London, and the school grounds were being used as a pedestrian shortcut between a fast-food restaurant and a nearby housing estate.
Trespassing was not the only problem. During school holidays, children were unlawfully using the swimming pool, there were minor break-ins, and there was a constant risk of arson by petty criminals.
The school's governing body decided to ask for bids to upgrade the school's security levels, particularlyaround the perimeter. The contract was won by Modern Alarms, Hemel Hempstead, north of London, in part due to the decision to implement the use of sophisticated surveillance equipment such as intelligent video motion detectors.
Fixed-position CCTV cameras were installed on school buildings looking out over the shortcuts and areas of the site most likely to be trespassed. In turn, the cameras were linked to 16 ActionTracker video motion detectors (VMDs) from Primary Image, Surrey, England. These VMDs have a low false alarm rate, because, unlike pixel differential VMDs, ActionTracker works on algorithms to essentially learn each new camera scene and learn to ignore repetitive random movement such as moving foliage.
The use of such equipment enables the transfer of alarm situation data back to the viewing area within the school. Footage of intrusions onto the site is fed back to one of the school buildings, where it is monitored. An audio system operates from this control room, which enables security staff to alert intruders that they are being observed - a highly effective deterrent. An extensive lighting system is also in use, as there were many unlit passageways being used as thoroughfares by the public.
Since the installation of the equipment, petty crime has been reduced, and there is a greater sense of well-being among those who use the premises lawfully, especially at night.