News 5 Guardians

Oct 31, 2013 11:13 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Guardians: Are school surveillance cameras working?

A 9-month News 5 investigation uncovers security cameras in schools
across Colorado are taking weeks, even months to fix. Out of service and
putting your children at risk, we're asking questions when it comes to
those repairs.

Many of us never question security until a tragedy like the Sandy Hook
Elementary School shooting occurs. Over the years, schools have beefed
up security by installing cameras. They're a helpful tool to law
enforcement when they're working.

From burglaries in the wee hours of the morning to bullying incidents where a
teen is punched several times in the face, surveillance cameras can
catch what officers sometimes can't.

"Security is a very high priority for us in Pueblo District 70," Superintendent Ed Smith said.

Smith says the cameras installed throughout his schools have been able to assist principals and police crack down on crime.

"If we have vandalism, bullying, or fights, not that we have them often but
when we do, we do have cameras in place," Smith said.

District 70 gave News 5 exclusive access behind the scenes to let you see what they see.

"We have 32 cameras," Dianne Petkoff with D-70 said. "You can follow a
student anywhere on the interior set of the building on this set of
cameras."

Two exterior cameras were not working during our visit, but were repaired in a matter of days when we returned for a follow-up visit.

We requested maintenance repair logs dating back to the fall of 2010 from
every school district in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Canon
City to see how quickly broken cameras are being fixed.

In most cases, cameras were repaired or replaced within 14 days in Pueblo
D-70. We found some which were repaired the same day, or very next day.

At Pueblo District 60, most cameras were repaired within 1-3 weeks.
However, we found several that were not working for more than a month.

In Canon City Schools, there were major delays in getting cameras fixed
back in 2010. However, 90-percent of cameras which needed repairs in
2012 and 2013 were fixed in a matter of days.

Below are repair logs for Pueblo District 70:

D70 File 1.pdf

D70 File 2.pdf

D70 File 3.pdf

D70 File 4.pdf

Below are repair logs for Pueblo District 60:

D60 Camera Repairs.pdf

Below are repair logs for Denver Public Schools:

Systems Specialists Work_2010 04-30-13.pdf

Systems Specialists Work_2011 04-30-13.pdf

Systems Specialists Work_2012 04-30-13.pdf

Below are repair logs for Canon City Schools:

Canon City Schools 1.pdf

Districts 2, 8, 11, 20, and 49 all denied access to security and maintenance
records, citing the information we requested was "contrary to the public
interest and would reveal specialized details of security arrangements
or investigations."

"I can ensure the public the cameras are working," D-11 Superintendent
Nicholas Gledich said. "I think the public has the right to know we have
a safe and secure environment, but we're not going to disclose where
security cameras are located."

News 5 never asked for specific locations of security cameras. We only asked
for the number of cameras installed at each school and whether they
were inside or outside. We also asked how much money was spent on
cameras, and what year they were installed in addition to maintenance
repair logs.

Districts 2, 8, 11, 20, and 49 all stand by their response denying us that
information, saying it's not in the public's interest to know that
information and would compromise schools safety.

Widefield District 3 informed News 5 they did not have of the information available on file.

In an email to News 5, the district said, "We don't have any of this
information in any of our reports. We keep our cameras in good working
condition. If we have a problem, we get them fixed."

District 12 did not deny our CORA request, and provided documents pertaining to
expenses for surveillance equipment. News 5 was not provided maintenance
repair logs.

"The school districts have essentially said that in their view, disclosing
maintenance records would expose vulnerability in their security systems
and that would be contrary to the public interest," attorney Steven
Zansberg said. "I think the public is entitled to know how long
surveillance cameras on average go unrepaired because of budgetary
constraints or other constraints."

We contacted Kelley Dude, the attorney representing all school districts
in Colorado Springs. He declined to be interviewed about the CORA
request denial but informed us we could challenge the denial with him
via email.

News 5 then sent revised CORA requests to all the districts in Colorado Springs who previously denied our initial request.

District 11 now informed us they no longer had the records we were requesting,
and that they were in the possession of the security company contracted
out to work with the district. Because the security company is a private
entity, they are not subject to the Colorado Open Records Act.

Devra Ashby, public information officer for District 11, declined to go
on-camera and discuss school security. We requested to speak with Dr.
Gledich, who declined. We were only able to speak with Dr. Gledich after
showing up to a school board meeting.

"I support Devra's position by denying you that information," Dr. Gledich
said, after News 5 asked him whether he thought requesting school
security maintenance records were "contrary to the public interest."

District 20 replied to our revised CORA by saying, "Security
cameras in Academy District 20 are less than five years old and were
installed after the district passed its mill levy override in 2008. The
most recent installations were completed 18 months ago. Our cameras are
relatively new. Our district has not incurred any costs since fall 2010
to maintain our security cameras. Any repair/return needs have been
covered under product and/or installation warranties to this point."

We asked when the warranty for the cameras expired, but we never heard
back from D-20. The district did invite us to take a tour and videotape
their security operations center, but News 5 declined since the
information we had requested a responses to were denied or went
unanswered.

We asked Larry Borland, the former Academy District 20 head of security the same question.

News 5: "Is inquiring about school security and wanting to know whether the
cameras are working really contrary to the public interest?"

"The interesting thing about security is that you are always in a balancing
act between having enough security and having too much security,"
Borland said. "There's not going to be a security director out there
who's going to simply give full access to news media or anybody else and
show everything they do. There are things you are just not going to
discuss with the general public."

Borland is now running for a seat on the school board.

Stephanie Wurtz, public information officer for district 49, did email us a work
order repair log. However, from the data that was sent, we were unable
to sort out how quickly repairs were made. The documents below only
provided the date when the work order was placed.

Falcon Fort Carson District 8 allowed our investigative producer to inspect their
documents, but did not allow us to take photographs of them. Our
investigative producer informed us the documents she was able to inspect
did not address the information we had requested.


Christine Lyle, D-2 public information officer provided information estimating it would cost News 5 $533.33 for the maintenance records requested.

Voters in Pueblo District 70 recently passed a $59 million bond. The district
plans to use a large portion of that money for additional security
cameras. They hope to have those upgrades completed next year.

In district emails obtained by KOAA-TV, District 11 feared News 5 may attempt to breach school security or gain access to secured buildings. News 5 never attempted, nor did breach any security measures.

 

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