The Richmond County Board of Education on Tuesday approved a $21,000 bid to install surveillance cameras on campus. The cameras will be used to “deter repeated criminal activity at this school,” according to a memo from Controller Gene Spires.
According to School Safety and Security Chief Patrick Clayton, there were four criminal incidents at the school in 2011-12: one vehicle theft, one break-in, one walk-on and one “miscellaneous,” along with two car repossessions.
Although Spires’ memo said the impetus for the cameras is to deter crime, Clayton said four incidents at a school is not an alarming number.
“I’m not saying there’s not a safety issue, but that’s a low number over a year’s period of time,” he said.
James Johnson, whose son is an A.R. Johnson senior, asked the board Tuesday to install a perimeter fence around the parking lot because of break-ins and trespassing at the school. Johnson’s son’s Honda Civic was broken into in April, causing $400 in damage to the steering wheel and wiring.
He said the openness of the parking lot makes the school an easy target for thefts and break-ins. He was also concerned about residents walking on campus while female students are at after-school sports.
“I want to be proactive,” Johnson said. “The cameras will show what happened but it won’t stop it from happening. Kids don’t care about a camera. ‘Here I am,’ that’s them.”
Director of Facilities and Maintenance Benton Starks said cameras are a better option than the fence. The cameras can zoom in on an individual walking through the parking lot, and officials have live access to the video.
He said a fence could create a bottleneck in the case of an emergency when the school has to be evacuated.
Deputy Superintendent Tim Spivey said that A.R. Johnson does not have more property crimes than any other high school but that the cameras will be a way to calm fears.
“This was the best way to but the situation down,” he said.