Secure your school

Technology in education is making a huge impact, but it’s also turning schools into targets for criminals.

Johannesburg, 03 Mar 2020
Read time 4min 40sec
Mark Taylor, CEO, Nashua
Mark Taylor, CEO, Nashua

The Gauteng Department of Education spent R121 million at 256 schools in the province during the first eight months of last year, as a result of theft and vandalism at the schools. The department said theft, burglaries and vandalism had led to the loss of valuable resources meant to enhance the delivery of quality education to learners.

The drive to implement technology in education means schools are increasingly becoming targets for criminals. Various kinds of technology are routinely being implemented in education, ranging from educational aids like interactive whiteboards and computers, to multifunctional devices and connectivity solutions, and more recently expanding to include technology that keeps the school and its occupants secure. “In the past, schools weren’t really attractive targets for criminals, but with the use of technology to improve the learning experience, schools are increasingly being targeted,” says Mark Taylor, CEO of Nashua.

There have been several incidents reported over the past year of schools being the victims of crime, with items such as laptops, interactive whiteboards, data projectors, desktop computers and tablets being stolen. Taylor says it’s no longer sufficient for schools to implement technology that enables e-learning, they also have to consider technologies that can improve their security, particularly after hours, when nobody is on the premises. “Building security is often not upgraded despite the fact that there are now more items on the premises that can attract the attention of criminals. Physical barriers such as walls and security gates are easily overcome by thieves. Schools need to take the next step and turn to technology to protect their assets.”

Technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of things (IOT) is being used to protect people, property and assets in businesses and residential estates. Now, these technologies are being used at schools to protect them against theft and vandalism, says Taylor. He explains that CCTV cameras and sensors can be used to provide surveillance, biometrics are used to control access and everything can be monitored, either onsite or remotely. The benefits of using technology for safety and security include 24/7 remote monitoring, as well as the ability to monitor and control entry and exit into specific areas.

“Surveillance and security should be a top priority for any educational institution. Security measures can include CCTV systems that cover all the identified security risks points, as well as biometrics access and facial recognition technologies that prevent any unwanted people from entering the schools.”

The installation of security cameras is not a new initiative in the attempt to secure premises, but it does have mixed results, says Taylor. False alarms, poor image quality and simply not being monitored can all impact the efficacy of security cameras in keeping your building intruder-free.

The upside of installing a surveillance system that includes cameras is the ability to view events in real-time and having proper evidence after an event has occurred, should it be required. In addition, surveillance cameras have evolved significantly since the days of grainy black and white footage that most people are familiar with.

Today’s cameras show events in full colour, even at night. This allows a more accurate reflection of events, even in poorly lit areas. A camera that uses infrared lighting for night monitoring can render people, vehicles and other objects blurry and difficult to distinguish from the background. Details can be hard to identify. Accurate colour rendering results in clearer details and can improve suspect identification, where needed.

Modern surveillance cameras also incorporate artificial intelligence that sends live notifications of breaches, so criminals can potentially be caught in the act. They generate fewer false alarms as they include AI algorithms that can differentiate between humans, vehicles and animals, for instance, filtering out other triggers such as plants, animals or even changes in lighting or shadows. Security staff can waste hours responding to false alarms, possibly distracting them from responding to real threats.By minimising false alarms, security personnel are freed up to focus on what really matters.

Trespassing and vehicle break-ins are two of the biggest issues that perimeter security aims to defend against, says Taylor. This is why it’s good security practice to install a device that will only trigger an alarm when the preset intrusion type, albeit human or vehicle, happens. Police or security personnel will need to review footage of any event, which could require reviewing hours of footage before they can locate the suspects. The ability to sort videos of alarmed events into human and vehicle categories makes it easier and significantly quicker to search for footage of a specific event.

Advances in technology can not only improve the overall security of your premises, they can also provide valuable information in the event of an insurance claim, which is why it’s vital to ensure you have a professionally installed solution that complies with the Privacy Act and other best practice, says Taylor.