Albuquerque's Solution for School Safety: Total Surveillance


Rare though they are, horrific events like the Newtown shooting inevitably provoke a variety of responses. The intent is to head off a recurrence of the sort of crime that, truth be told, very likely can't be completely prevented, if for no other reason than that so many of the perpetrators seemingly have little interest in surviving their deeds. But some of the responses, like encouraging people to take responsibility for defending themselves and those around them, offer the possibility of reducing the damage done by rampage killers. Some responses, like gun restrictions and video-game censorship, put widespread civil liberties at the mercy of opportunistic control freaks. And some responses seem designed to turn public schools into replica prisons. On that last point, I'm talking about Albuquerque's scheme for multi-school surveillance, centrally monitored at the Albuquerque Public Schools Police headquarters dispatch center.

That Albuquerque actually has something called "Public Schools Police" is a strong clue that the local educational establishment has been wandering down the road to Sing Sing for quite some time, now. So the network of surveillance cameras isn't a new thing — but it's growing and probably not likely to face any budgetary pressure or policy challenges in the near future. As KRQE Reports:

The digital cameras are motion activated, grabbing onto people as they move. They're in hallways, libraries, cafeterias, playgrounds and parking lots.

"Someone watching the camera can see if a person comes on campus who doesn't belong there, and they can immediately call help if they need to or go to the door and see who the person is," explained Lt. Rider. "They can address them before they even enter the campus."

So far they've helped solve vandalism and even keep an eye on teachers, but they're also tracking students.

You think they're creepy? Why do you hate children? Well, that's the likely response to anybody raising even the mildest objections to authoritarian power-grabs that are justified in the name of keeping the little darlings out of harm's way. Though it's a bit difficult to fathom the benefits of a security system based on centrally monitored video cameras when "officers can not be everywhere" and, in fact, may be nowhere near the school in question. You'd think something a bit more flexible and on-the-spot would make more sense.

But then, nobody would get to sit in a room, watching kids on a mosaic of video feeds. And besides, "APS also uses the cameras for other things. Monday they used them to monitor weather conditions especially at their East Mountain campuses."