Fort Worth, Texas, School District Continues to Enhance School Safety

Police now have real-time access to video surveillance systems.

by Jim McKay / March 23, 2018

In the latest enhancement of Fort Worth Independent School District’s plan to keep students and faculty safe, the district granted the Fort Worth Police Department access to school video in real time whenever police deem it necessary.

School Resource Officers (SRO) already have access via the Internet, their phones and laptops, and now Fort Worth Police will have access at the Real Time Crime Center. Any information gleaned via the surveillance cameras within the district by the Real Time Crime Center can be transmitted to patrol officers on the street.

“I can access the cameras from my desktop or phone,” said Clint Bond, executive director of external and emergency communications for the district. “It’s giving police the same kind of access. Responding officers who are not assigned to our schools, who are not familiar with our schools, will get up-to-date information as they’re responding.”

Lt. Bill De La Campa of the Fort Worth Police Department wrote in an email, “A properly installed system of school security cameras is important technology and an indispensable aid to deterring and detecting criminal activity. The live feed combined with immediate access to their basic floor plans, provides crucial intelligence needed to successfully confront a school shooter.”

The district has 143 schools and began installing the surveillance package in 2007 when voters approved a bond package. Voters approved additional bond packages in 2013 and 2017 to help continuing enhancement of the system.

“We’re replacing those cameras that are out of date and expanding in places where we haven’t had eyes before,” Bond said. The cameras are both inside and outside of the schools, 83 of which are elementary schools.

The district can afford to have about 45 of the schools patrolled by an SRO. The district pays half of the SRO’s salary and the police department pays the other half. This is one of the reasons it’s so important for police on the street to have access to real-time information.

The surveillance system is just one of the layers of security for the district, Bond said. “We have layers that start with ‘See Something, Say Something.’ Everybody is involved, everybody has a job when it comes to safety and security,” he said. “The young kids in school, the teachers, the parents and campus administrators.”

He said district administrators have a key function. “Our function is to provide the security of the buildings as best as we can within the confines of the money that we have. In our new bond package, we will be building schools and one of the things we have to consider are hardened structures, not only for weather because the international building code now requires us to provide structures that are safe against tornadoes. Those are our biggest threat, not shooters.”

He said the district will involve the police department in an architectural review to glean any information on building safety the department could provide.

De La Campa also said the department has “long-term strategic plans to incorporate facial recognition” technology in the surveillance “and combine the two into an interoperable system.”