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Gun on Campus? Video System Answers Terrifying Question

When a student turned in a backpack full of ammunition, the Hernando County School District used its new video surveillance system to find out where the backpack came from — and if there was a gun that went with it.

a gun drawn on a chalkboard
When a student in the Hernando County School District in Florida turned in a backpack that he had found in a trash can in a school hallway, school personnel were alarmed when they looked inside and found a magazine with several hollow-point rounds of ammunition.

But they knew what to do and quickly turned to a new video system to find the answers they were seeking: Who put the backpack in the trash? Was there a gun somewhere on school grounds that went with the ammunition?

The new “Smart Search 2” video system and AXIS Communications Camera Station Video management software allowed district personnel to take a look back at the video, find out when the backpack was put in the trash and determine who put it there. They were quickly able to find the student and determine that there was no gun.

“Of course, we have to think there’s a firearm to go along with it,” Jill Renihan, director of safe schools for the Hernando County School District, said in a press release. “So that’s a terrifying moment in everybody’s day, especially on a campus of almost 1,900 students. Given that we now know that the backpack had been left there two days prior to us becoming aware of it, we realize that a search of video would have taken a very long time with the old system, if at all.”

The new, digital system replaced an analog system that wasn’t always working, or when it was, didn’t allow the kind of immediate search and detail that the new system allows.

“I was a school administrator handicapped by lack of cameras, or cameras that weren’t working, or inadequate coverage, or being unable to really gather information and make identification of people,” Renihan said. “And certainly, anytime you zoom in on an analog camera, you end up just with pixels and no way to really make that any better.”

With the new system, the staff was quickly able to go back on the video and determine exactly when the backpack first appeared in the trash and investigate from there. “Searching video for the absence of a thing is kind of crazy, but within a matter of minutes, the school staff was able to identify exactly when that backpack was left and then identify the student who did it,” Renihan said.