eli whitney elem

Chicago district will spend $76.3 million on additional security cameras in schools

Feb. 23, 2023
The plan calls for installing or upgrading cameras at 330 schools over 3 years.

The Chicago school district plans to spend $76.3 million over three years to install and update security cameras on its campuses.

The district says in a news release that adding cameras to existing schools and updating systems that have outdated equipment will give security staff better visibility across areas of a school facility.

“We are excited to make this investment as well as the many ongoing social emotional supports that aim to address the root of behavioral issues,” says Jadine Chou, the district's safety and security chief. “We know that it requires a holistic approach to bolster safety in our schools and that work continues as we install new cameras.” 

The district is prioritizing cameras for schools based on a model that considers several criteria: condition of existing cameras, number of safety incidents taking place at a school, number of criminal incidents taking place in the vicinity of a school, the district's Equity Opportunity Index and school enrollment. Schools with up-to-date systems will not be included in this program.

The upgrades will be phased in over three years:

Fiscal 2023: $13.5 million will be spent at 63 schools (58 elementary and 5 high).

Fiscal 2024: $30.9 million will be spent at 135 schools (120 elementary and 15 high).

Fiscal 2025: $31.9 million will be spent at 133 schools (122 elementary and 11 high).

The Chicago Tribune reports that after district officials announced the security upgrade, board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland said there had been little discussion with the board about the plan.

“Today is the first that I’m hearing about these security camera investments,” she said.

She asked district CEO Pedro Martinez to elaborate on the evidence supporting what she called “a big bet” on technologies of surveillance. 

Martinez said principals have raised the need for cameras and giving security staff better tools to monitor the large footprint of school buildings.

“We have security personnel, and they work very hard,” Martinez said. “It’s either one thing or the other. Do we double, triple, quadruple the number of security personnel or do we find ways to better optimize these amazing, dedicated individuals?”

At Eli Whitney Elementary School, where new cameras have been in place since December, Martinez said, “Students understand that this is a deterrent. It’s a way to protect them. It’s a way to make sure that if any suspicious activity outside the school maybe finds its way into the school, it’s a way for us to capture that.”

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