District Slow To Respond To School Cameras On The Blink

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UPDATED: Friday November 8, 2013 11:26 AM

Columbus City Schools has had nearly a thousand requests to repair school security cameras and related equipment in the past four years; but often the district has waited "unacceptably" long to fix the equipment, a 10 Investigates' investigation has found.

The cameras are meant to deter crime and collect video evidence when it happens.

However, cameras frequently sit blind while awaiting repairs, according to school repair orders obtained by 10 Investigates through a public records request.

The documents show that some Columbus City schools opened repair orders by requesting fixes for their malfunctioning equipment, but repairs were not completed for weeks, months, or even years.

10 Investigates found examples of such problems throughout the district.

Those included, Briggs High School. The school reported numerous cameras were not working properly in April 2012. Repairs were not completed until July, according to district records. That was a 102 days later.

At East Linden Elementary, the school waited even longer. The school requested repairs on January 22, 2010. That repair was not closed until the following July, according to the records.

That was 178 days later, nearly 6 months. The records show that in 13 cases, the district waited a year or longer to close out repair orders.

Repairs to malfunctioning equipment took 2 months or longer 12% of the time, according to a 10 Investigates database analysis based on repair orders.

Parents said they were unhappy to learn of 10 Investigates' findings.

"That's BS," said parent Crystal Collier outside of West Elementary.

"If they're down that long, what good are they?" asked grandparent Maryellen Weingardner.

Some parents said they think cameras should be repaired "the same day or next day" a repair is requested.

A nationally known school security expert said same day repairs are not a reasonable expectation.

"It's not realistic to expect a 24 hour turnaround in most districts," said Ken Trump of National School Safety and Security Services.

Trump offers his services around the country and has published a book about school security.

A few days is a reasonable time to wait but no longer, Trump said.

"Weeks and months is just unacceptable," Trump said. "Parents will forgive people if their test scores go down, but the safety of their kids is their number one priority."

The district declined to comment about the issue on camera. A spokesman said he did not have enough time to gather information despite repeated requests by 10 Investigates over the course of weeks.

Eventually, district spokesman Jeff Warner sent a statement that said staffing levels have caused the problem.

"The issue of security camera maintenance is a serious concern for CCS. With more than 5,000 security cameras across the District and only four people in which to maintain the cameras, thousands of other electronic devices, and equipment such as SMART Boards – it is evident that we have stretched our repair personnel beyond their capacity. We are looking at additional financial resources, including funds from the levy, which may assist us in substantially improving our repair rates.  We are also assessing security camera maintenance histories, in an effort to determine whether a large percentage of the cameras may be nearing or exceeding their useful life." - Jeff Warner, Columbus City Schools

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