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School Safety Technology in America: Current Use and Perceived Effectiveness

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2003 Pages: 30-54
Date Published
March 2003
25 pages

This article presents the results of a federally funded study to measure the current use of safety technology in American schools and its perceived effectiveness.


Reality shows that schools are as safe today as they were in the 1970's. American students do not have a high likelihood of becoming a victim of violent crime at school. However, with concern over student safety being warranted and expenditures necessary, sound public policy demands that effort be spent determining the effectiveness of these policies and technologies. In 1999, the Institute for Forensic Imaging (IFI) was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Justice to develop and present a “snapshot” of current safety technology usage in American schools. IFI interviewed 41 school safety administrators (SSAs) from 15 States. Data collected consisted of descriptive information on school districts, level and impact of concern about school violence on school safety plans, types of safety technologies being used and how widespread the use was, perceived effectiveness of the technologies, and plans for future technology acquisition. In addition, other identified areas of interest included: SSA's concern about violence and changes in school safety plans, feelings of safety on campus, perceived increases in crime and violence in schools, and how districts perceived themselves when compared to other districts in relation to crime. Findings indicated that there appears to be a definite “disconnect” between the perceived effectiveness of certain technologies and the number of districts wishing/planning to acquire the technology in the future. The study provided a brief picture of current technology use and showed the pervasiveness of certain technologies, such as cameras and recording systems helping to inform the debate surrounding target-hardening activities in American schools. Ninety percent of the districts sampled utilized cameras and 87 percent utilized recording systems. Two-thirds believed them to be effective. It is recommended that public policy focus on funding the further development of technologies considered to be most effective, such as computer-based camera networks and digital storage and acknowledge what can realistically be expected of these technologies. Efficient camera/recording systems will continue as a visual deterrent, as well as aid in the earlier detection of serious events. References

Date Published: March 1, 2003