More security cameras installed to decrease illegal activities

April 3, 2018 — by Chelsea Leung and Jackson Green
Photo by Muthu Palaniappan

This is one of several new security cameras recently installed on campus.

Beware, thieves, vandals, drug users or anyone else who is doing anything illegal on campus.

More security cameras have been installed on campus over the past month, and school officials can now view footage of students in hallways, parking lots and the quad. The cameras will also soon cover the tennis courts, assistant principal Brian Thompson said.

As part of the district security plan created two years ago, security cameras have gradually installed on both the Saratoga and Los Gatos High campuses; however, even more have been added recently because the plan is drawing to a close.

Thompson said no cameras are installed in classrooms, locker rooms or bathrooms.

The cameras are meant to deter theft, break-ins and other issues, principal Paul Robinson said. He said all cameras are visible and not meant to be concealed.

Though the cameras are live-streaming at all times, the only people who can see the feed are district employees like Thompson and other administrators. The feed is accessed through district computers and can be recorded and replayed. Robinson said nobody monitors the feed at all times; rather, the feed is replayed whenever the administration needs to get more information about an incident at a particular time.

Before the two-year plan, the old security cameras recorded only when detecting motion, meaning coverage of the campus was sporadic. The recordings were also deleted from the archives after a couple of weeks, preventing administrators from retrieving data for students who reported events like a car break-in weeks after the incident.

Robinson said the cameras have already been useful this year. When the administration discovered graffiti on the mosaic Falcon icon in the middle of the quad, footage from the cameras led to the discovery of the perpetrator.

Student response to the new cameras, though, appears to be overwhelmingly negative. A recent Facebook poll posted in the Saratoga High 2017-2018 group, which comprises all grades, had 190 votes against the installation of the cameras and only 10 votes for it.

Junior Rohan Pandey, who compared the mass surveillance to Big Brother from George Orwell’s “1984,” said that the cameras are mostly useless because most students don’t commit illegal activities in the hallways. He also pointed out that because it is illegal to place cameras in bathrooms, the administration is unable to capture actual illicit activity like vaping.

“Putting cameras does nothing except surveil innocent students,” Pandey said. “If they really wanted to catch illegal activity, they would put them in places where bad stuff actually happens.”

Sophomore Shivam Mani thinks the security system is an unnecessary expense since “nothing much really happens on campus.” Rather, he said, the school could put the funds spent for the cameras toward new textbooks for Spanish or other classes. However, Robinson said that the security system was budgeted as part of the Measure E facilities bond and is not taking away from classroom funding.

Not all students reacted negatively to the cameras. Junior Abhinav Tumu compared the cameras to those in airports or other public places. He argued that the cameras are a “cost-efficient equivalent” of installing a school supervisor.

“I believe most people voted against the cameras because they view it as some sort of infraction on their personal liberties,” Tumu said. “While I do understand this argument, it is the school’s job to make sure every student is in a safe and secure environment and I think these cameras will do that.”

Tumu thinks the new security system will help prevent crime and is important in the wake of recent happenings such as the arrest of a senior last spring for violent threats against the school.

Thompson said that the recent installation of cameras is not due to recent tragedies like the Parkland, Fla., school shooting in February.

“Current events have always been on our mind from the beginning of this plan,” Thompson said. “Having an literal vision of our campus falls right into our safety plan.”

 

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