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Video surveillance in schools
The aims of surveillance system in a school
The crimes that take place in schools are usually petty in nature, like thefts of clothes or other personal belongings, extortions of small sums of money, bullying of younger students by the older ones. But the number of more serious offenses, including battering and the crimes connected with pushing drugs also becomes a growing problem. Many people understand that even best educative measures cannot solve the problem and a complex action is needed. One of efficient methods of improving safety in a school is CCTV surveillance system, obviously decreasing the number of excesses.
The recorded events may often be the only evidence as the witnesses usually don't want to "testify" against their schoolmates, due to fear of rejection, or in fair for their own safety. Aside from improvement of security, CCTV monitoring helps to protect the school infrastructure and equipment against vandalism, the plague of majority of contemporary schools.
Diagram of surveillance system in a school
The principles
Both education authorities and the firm designing and implementing the project should realize that this kind of extensive building/s with large number of rooms and many appurtenances, as well as financial limitations, will strongly condition the range and precision of the system. First of all - it should ensure general inspection, and only several important locations will be equipped with devices allowing for precise identification of persons.
What to monitor and how?
First of all, there should be observed all possible entries to the school area. The equipment employed in that locations should ensure unambiguous identification of entering persons. The cameras have to be put close to the entrances or be equipped with lenses having large focal length. It will guarantee that the recorded material will give detailed information on appearance of everyone who enters the school, including foreign persons that may be potential perpetrators.
Corridors and cloakrooms are the next places where cameras are indispensable. The cameras should be placed as high as possible - it guarantees wide area of observation (without blocking view of one person by another - it is often crowd of people there), and helps to protect the cameras against damaging.
Corridors are often long and narrow - the case requires a number of cameras. They should be arranged the way that each camera sees the next one (e.g. they are placed at two opposite ends of the corridor). It will enable recording of possible attempts of destroying the cameras.
The most arguable issue, whether cameras should be mounted or not, concerns washrooms and toilets. From headmaster's point of view those rooms are extremely exposed to vandalism and various excesses. They are often considered by students to be smoking rooms.
Taking it into consideration, most of schools mount CCTV monitoring in there. The monitoring provides viewing of the main part of the room, but the inside of the cubicles is excluded from observation. Such monitoring fulfills the task (it is even possible to uncover a smoker, due to soaring smoke) and does not invade privacy. The level of surveillance should be consulted with parents (e.g. acting in parent-teacher association).
In those places there are used smaller dome cameras, e.g. M10744 and M10746 (IR). Similarly popular cameras are models with view angle adjustment, e.g. V-CAM 600 M10600, without the need of changing the lens.
Vandal Proof CCTV Camera: V-CAM 412 IR
Dome cameras M10746 in vandal-proof housings are well prepared for work inside schools
 Color Vandal-proof Camera: V-CAM 540 + IR (4-9 mm)
V-CAM 600 M10600 dome camera with view angle adjustment
The area that should also be monitored is surroundings of the school, i.e. playground, sports fields, swimming pool, parking lot, or other places frequented by young people.
Because of limited number of cameras and big monitored area, the role of monitoring is usually to give a general view of the area, without possibility of precise identification. To improve the basic level of usefulness, it is important to employ color system, increasing precision of recognition.
"Secret weapon "- dummy cameras
A vital element of every surveillance system, especially of this kind, is the psychological aspect. The mere thought of being watched makes the people behave correctly, in a cultural way. This fact should be used for "intensification" of visual existence of the system with a number of dummy cameras, mounted in less critical points. This popular method of discouraging potential offenders significantly lowers the cost of the whole installation, but is really effective when the dummies are realistic - the ideal solution requires visually identical items to those being operational.
Choice of cameras - B/W or color
As mentioned, color images ensure much better effects as regards a general view and the identification of people.
On the other hand, B/W cameras are more sensitive and simpler to adapt to night observation (they can work in dark areas).
Lower sensitivity of color cameras is usually not a problem in the cases where the space is illuminated at night with artificial (visible) light. The second demand, i.e. night observation in total darkness, is really an advantage of B/W cameras, due to their spectral-response characteristics and use of IR lamps enabling discreet viewing of dark areas.
There are suitable color cameras that switch at dusk into B/W mode and gain sensitivity. So they may be used for monitoring with IR lighting, like the cameras SN-486C M11202 and SN-468C/W M11206. The cameras are ideal tools for surveillance of playgrounds, sports fields, parking lots etc.
Color Day/Night Camera: SN-468C (without lens)
Color day/night camera M11202 is an ideal device for outdoor applications.
Majority of offered cameras are equipped with electronic iris control, changing their sensitivity depending on current lighting conditions. The cameras are capable of working with moderately changing light, e.g. inside a building, with the use of cheap lenses without regulated diaphragm. However, cameras operating outside a building should be equipped with lenses with Auto Iris function, allowing to obtain good quality images even in extremely changing lighting conditions, from sunlight to complete darkness.
Appearance and mounting of cameras
Due to character of monitored places (with young people having a lot of energy) the cameras may be exposed to accidental or intentional damages. To restrict direct access to a camera, it should be mounted as high as possible, with use of additional housing that will prevent anybody from manipulating the device. There should be employed solid brackets, insensitive to e.g. ball hit. The preferred kind is that made of metal and screwed, rather than the cheap, plastic cup-and-ball joint. In the case of ceiling dome cameras there should be chosen vandal-proof, high-impact polycarbonate casings.
Outdoor Camera Housing: Marathon MH-806/12Outdoor Camera Housing: Marathon MH-806/230Camera Bracket: Marathon MH-610 (for outdoor housings)Vandal Proof CCTV Camera: V-CAM 412 IRVandal Proof CCTV Camera: V-CAM 412  Color Vandal-proof Camera: V-CAM 540 + IR (4-9 mm)
When the camera is not mounted directly to the ceiling, it is required housing with hidden cable
Example of traditional housing - the cable can be easily cut
Signal distribution
Designing CCTV monitoring system, one has to choose the way of powering the system and transmitting video signals.
Cameras may be supplied with DC12V, AC24V or AC 230V. Low voltages ensure high safety level, but it should be considered the voltage drop caused by long cables.
As regards video transmission, the traditional wired system ensures higher reliability and resistance to interferences. It is usually used special all-in-one CCTV cable, including coaxial cable for video and two additional wires for powering the equipment, CAMSET 50 75-0.59/3.7+2x0.50, M6050_1.
CCTV cable CAMSET 50 75-0.59/3.7+2x0.50 with two power wires
Selection of monitors and their locations
Monitor/s is/are usually installed in porter's lodge and often in staff room and front office of the school. It is important to choose monitors with adequate diagonal. When the monitor is to be used only occasionally, for review of recorded material, it will be sufficient to employ 12"-15" screen. In case of live viewing by the operator and using screen division, there shoud be used large screens, at least of 20" diagonal.
Viewing and recording
Nowadays the standard way of recording video material is digital recording on hard drives. In case of educational institutions there are needed digital video recorders (DVRs) with many inputs. Modern DVRs allow access to the video data via LAN or the Internet.
Generally, it is recommended to employ 16-channel DVR, even if the number of cameras is currently lower.
ULTIMAX - the market leader in digital CCTV recording
Choosing a DVR it is important to think about the purpose of CCTV installation: quick access to reliable, quality recordings. DIPOL recommends ULTIMAX DVRs. Aside from 24-month warranty the user gets the opinion of the experts: a prestigious award of Intertelecom 2008 - Gold Medal for the Best Product.
The Gold Medal for the Best Product of Intertelecom 2008 for ULTIMAX-716 DVR
Depending on the series and model, there are available DVRs with different number of channels and various recording parameters. The simplest models - ULTIMAX-101 M71040 and ULTIMAX-201 M72040 - have only four channels. For use in schools we recommend DVRs of 4xx series (M74040, M74080, and M74160) offering unrivaled quality/price ratio, or more advanced models of 6xx series (M76080, M76160). To meet high requirements in some countries, it is indispensable to employ the top-class DVRs of 8xx series (M78080, M78160). These DVRs are capable of recording video in D1 (4CIF) resolution (704x576) at 25 fps, from 8 or 16 cameras respectively, using hard drives of total capacity up to 16 TB.
All ULTIMAX DVRs perform advanced functions of:
  • motion detection - economical use of disc space
  • assigning access rights - up to 15 users
  • alarming in the case of video loss - tampering, covering the camera etc.
  • IP network operation - remote viewing, playback, notification etc.
In the case of large installations - when there is a need to install over 16 cameras - the next ULTIMAX DVRs will create a uniform system managed by ULTISYSTEM software. The images from any chosen cameras can be viewed on many client posts. ULTISYSTEM also allows to integrate ULTIMAX DVRs with city monitoring.
The DVRs use the latest video compression - H.264, both for recording and network transmission. They are easy to operate due to intuitive menu in English and comprehensive user's manual.
Network DVR: ULTIMAX-716 (H.264, 16 channels)
ULTIMAX-716 - the winner of the prestigious award - "Gold Medal of Intertelecom 2008"
for the best product
Another way of video recording is provided by systems based on dedicated cards mounted in regular personal computers (PCs). They ensure high flexibility of system configuration and easy access via LAN or the Internet. For this purpose there is available 16-input Geovision card M8229 with software packet.
Digital surveillance systems based on PC cards cooperate with PCs fulfilling given specifications. There is needed process of installation, that is usually quite simple due to plug&play feature and user-friendly conception. It is important to check the system before connecting all devices in order to proof its stability.
The advantage of these systems is possibility of updating the software, just by loading its new versions which are usually successively available on the producer's website. It allows to improve operation of the CCTV system and add new functions that are desirable by installers and users. But due to popularity and stability of DVRs - 90% of installation companies choose the stand-alone equipment.
School surroundings: sports fields, playgrounds, parking lots etc.
Outdoor cameras are often installed on street lamp posts. The posts enable easy access to 230VAC power line - there may be used housings with heaters powered by 230VAC. In such a housing there is placed 12VDC camera and its AC/DC adapter. The adapter can also supply other installation devices such as video transmitters/transformers, video amplifiers, wireless transmitters.
Using 230VAC power network it is indispensable to obey safety regulations, including grounding of the housings.

The outdoor set consists of:
M5406 - outdoor Marathon housing MH-806/12 (with heater and thermostat that guarantee proper operation of CCTV camera in changeable weather conditions),
M5142 - Marathon bracket MH-610 for outdoor housings,
M11206 - color day/night camera SN-468C/W (without lens),
M2137 - COMPUTER day/night lens: 2.8-12mm DC F1.3.
Outdoor Camera Housing: Marathon MH-806/12
Camera Bracket: Marathon MH-610 (for outdoor housings)
Day/Night Color Camera: SN-468C/W (mechanically switching IR filter, w/o lens)
CCTV Lens: JENSEN 2.8 - 12 mm DC F1.4
Marathon housing M5406
Marathon bracket M5142
Color day/night camera M11206
COMPUTAR lens M2137
Swimming-pools, kitchens and canteens (rooms with high humidity)
For this kind of rooms there have been designed cameras equipped with hermetic housings, compliant with IP 68, IP67 ingress protection ratings. Some of the cameras can even work in immersion up to 30m deep.
Other suitable models (color) include M11230, M11278, M11279, M10600, M10744 - they are prepared for operation in high humidity, but not in water.
A limitation of the cameras is often a total ban on exchanging the original lenses - it would simply void the manufacturer's warranty. But such action will not be needed in 90% of cases - the original wide-angle lenses are just what is required.
Outdoor Color Camera: VF-515 IR
Vandal Proof CCTV Camera: V-CAM 412
Outdoor color camera M11279
Vandal proof color camera M10600
Corridors, cloakrooms and the gym
The cameras in these rooms may be exposed to temperature changes, dust and malicious actions of some students (e.g. changing direction of operation, or even trying to destroy the device). For that conditions, the ideal solution is provided by vandal-proof dome cameras, like color cameras M10744 and M10746, mounted directly to the ceiling or wall.
Color Vandal-proof Camera: SN-FXP3200MIR (WDR)
Vandal Proof CCTV Camera: V-CAM 412 IR
Vandal proof color camera M10744
Vandal proof color camera with IR illuminator - M10746
The cameras are easy to mount and maintain - it is enough to wipe their domes. Due to closing of the camera and lens inside the dome, such camera ensures discrete observation - it is difficult to notice at the first sight the direction and angle of observation. The cameras enable choice of lenses, so they may be adjusted to the job. It may be utilized e.g. in the case of monitoring long corridors, where large focal length of the lens will be indispensable for ensuring identification of persons.
Notice! It is always important to specify the needs and methods of their accomplishment in the designing process - 12 questions for those who plan to build a monitoring system:
A short CCTV guide for investors and developers
Installation of video surveillance system with recording capability in a school increases security levels, and improves working conditions for the staff and learning environment for the students. It lowers the number of excesses and minimizes devastation of school infrastructure, so it is very cost-effective venture. Simply it saves money that would be needed for repairs and renovations and this way guarantees return of invested resources.
There has been noticed tremendous improvement of safety in schools where some cameras were installed, and the process of installing video surveillance systems in educational institutions is just accelerating in many countries. The current systems are often extended and improved to meet higher requirements for better control of school environment and safety.
Professional video surveillance of schools - cooperation with city monitoring system. The most effective solution is combining of school systems with city system (especially the parts covering external areas). So far, such systems are still rare, mainly due to organizational problems. More on this subject in the article Video surveillance solutions to cities
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