Police soon can monitor what happens at Elgin schools

Updated 10/18/2016 10:59 AM
An earlier version of this story should have read that Elgin Area School District U-46 officials are considering an agreement with Elgin Police allowing access to the district's video surveillance cameras at schools.

Police soon will be able to monitor what happens at Elgin schools in real time during emergencies or when responding to calls.

Elgin Area School District U-46 officials are considering an agreement allowing the Elgin Police Department to tap into the district's video surveillance cameras at its 40 elementary, eight middle and five high schools.


Mass shootings, such as the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, have prompted these safety procedures, officials said. District officials have been working with Elgin police for more than a year to develop the plan, said John Heiderscheidt, U-46 director of school safety and culture.

Elgin police have a sophisticated Real Time Information Center, to which businesses and homes within the community are linked by choice. Schools are being added now because U-46 recently completed districtwide installation of video cameras and servers, Heiderscheidt said.

"They would have the tactical information that they need from our camera systems," Heiderscheidt said.

The agreement will be in effect for a year starting in November. It spells out exactly when and for what purposes police can view in real time the district's cameras positioned at the entry points of every school, and interior cameras at the middle and high schools.

Under the agreement, police will not be able to record any images from the cameras and can view the footage only under the following conditions:

• When a school calls for police assistance.

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• When police receive a call from any person about suspected criminal activity on or around the school (not limited to the school day).

• When an alarm is activated (panic, burglar, or fire).

• When a human or natural hazard, such as tornado or fire, is reported on or around school property.

• To facilitate a tactical advantage view for a police response to a potentially dangerous situation.

"They would always have a connection, but the reasons for viewing would be (spelled out) clearly under our agreement," Heiderscheidt said. "We don't turn this on and off. It's always running. Always connected."

The city will bear the roughly $7,000 cost to install software enabling it to connect to the district's camera system. The agreement has been reviewed by the city and legal counsels for both parties.

U-46 officials will review its success and whether police used the link to the district's camera system appropriately at the end of the year, Heiderscheidt said.

Similar agreements could follow with police departments in Bartlett and Hanover Park, which don't currently have such capability, he said.

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