Dropping the ‘Persistently Dangerous’ Designation

An IP video system has helped the Donna Independent School District combat gang violence and border issues.

Just 10 miles from the United States-Mexico border along the Rio Grande in Texas, Donna Independent School District (ISD) is surrounded by international violence, including drugs, guns and gangs. Only a few years ago, much of the violence was spilling over into the district’s 21 campuses. The security problems – most of which were related to gang activity – were so severe that the U.S. Department of Education identified the district as “persistently dangerous.”

While many in the community had written the violence off as what “comes with the territory,” school officials took proactive measures to thwart campus gang violence.

“We knew that despite the fact that our students may sometimes witness or hear about violence around them in our community, we could do something about the violence that was occurring on our campuses,” says Donna ISD Safe Schools Coordinator Urban Gonzalez.

Federal Grant Pays for New Video System

Although being labeled “persistently dangerous” is a dubious distinction for any school or school district, the label meant that Donna ISD was eligible for federal funds to help combat on-campus violence.

“We applied for the grant designated for persistently dangerous schools indicating that we would use the funds to implement a video surveillance system and increase security, which we felt would attack our problems head on,” says Gonzalez.

In 2007, the district was awarded the grant and after putting out a competitive bid via a request for proposal (RFP), a special committee selected Texas-based Video Insight to provide their surveillance solution.

“Out of all of the bids we received [12], Video Insight offered exactly what we were looking for, so they came out on top,” says Gonzalez.

The grant provided funds to outfit the five Donna ISD secondary campuses that were experiencing the most problems – three middle schools, a ninth grade campus and the high school.

Working with Xtreme Security of Brownsville, Texas, which is a Video Insight integrator, Donna ISD officials chose an IP system with 11 servers and more than 450 Axis cameras. According to Gonzalez, Axis cameras were selected because of their superior quality and excellent warranty.

Because the district had virtually no system in place prior to the IP installation, officials were concerned that the technology might overwhelm their IT crew and administrators in the implementation and use of the system.

“But that really wasn’t the case at all,” says Gonzalez. “Everything went very smoothly, and it is really a very simple system to use. We have learned that the best thing about it is that you can’t break it!”

Video Solution Deters, Solves Crime

Now, administrators and police officers use monitoring stations and Web access to view live and recorded data.

According to Donna ISD Police Chief Donald Crist, the results of having the video surveillance solution in place have been dramatic. “One of the main reasons we decided to go with video surveillance was to combat our gang violence. The cameras and the recorded video have worked to address this in a pretty amazing way. It’s a good comprehensive tool in our safety plan.

“We have used the cameras and video mainly to identify students in fights, and we have solved cases as a result,” he adds. “Now that the students know the cameras are there, the cameras serve as a deterrent, and [students] often choose not to participate [in criminal activities] because they know they will get caught.”

One of the most important results, says Gonzalez, is that since the video surveillance system has been installed and crime is down, Donna ISD is no longer considered persistently dangerous.

“Along with increased security officers, the Video Insight solution has basically enabled us to get violence at our campuses under control, keep our students safer and lose that dangerous school distinction,” says Gonzalez.

Linda Richardson is director of product marketing for Video Insight. For more information on the company, visit www.video-insight.com.


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