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San Diego School District De-escalates Incidents, Protects Assets and Catches Perpetrators

Reduced crime, improved security

Central control room for San Diego Schools security system

COPENHAGEN — The San Diego Unified School District is the second-largest school district in California. To improve security, control incidents and reduce vandalism, the district recently upgraded its security systems with open platform IP video management software (VMS) from Milestone Systems.

The district’s previous video surveillance solution presented a number of problems. It required two management servers in which most settings had to be replicated, which was cumbersome. Programming cameras required navigating two operating systems. Training administrators and end users on the old technology also took a lot of time, as did making district-wide updates.

Being an organization with more than 200 facilities, San Diego Unified School District sought a video surveillance technology solution that could be centrally administered, and support HD quality images to more effectively manage behavior and prevent vandalism. It had to be expandable in the future and accommodate additions such as the access-control technology the district hopes to deploy within one or two years.

Installation/design partner Proshop Group and Dotworkz designed and implemented the network security solution, choosing Milestone XProtect VMS. Its open platform allows the schools to manage 1,169 video cameras from a mix of manufacturers that include Axis, Bosch, IQinVision, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony. The installation runs on IBM and Dell servers.

Dotworkz president Will Ferris believes that Milestone’s open platform provides the best value for what is most important to San Diego Unified School District. This includes scalability, incorporating new functionality and enhancing the level of safety and security for parents, students and teachers.

“We helped the district in its quest for better camera and processing technology,” Ferris said. “We served as a guide, showing them the advantages of Milestone’s open platform and advised them to complete the training required to become certified in the technology. We also built the housings for their external cameras.”

The cameras are installed at points where break-ins commonly occur and in areas where students gather that are the most problematic.


Will Ferris (left) and Mike Cho

“This system makes each campus safer for students and staff. We now have the level of visual communication we need to resolve most problems before they arise,” said Mike Cho, safety and security coordinator for the San Diego Unified School District.

As an organization that depends on voters’ support for bond funding, the investment in any technology is made with an eye toward cost effectiveness. The Milestone video platform has paid off by dramatically reducing the amount of time required to administer the system and train users. It has also reduced vandalism that demands costly repairs.

Further savings are achieved by reducing the number of staff members needed to physically monitor so many areas. According to district administrators, the system has improved conduct across the board by providing HD images that make identifying and charging perpetrators a much less arduous process than it was before.

“Since they’ve noticed that they’re being monitored, the students’ behavior has improved,” Cho said. “They know that every action occurring in the common areas is being recorded.”

At the school that once had the worst graffiti problem, tagging has been reduced by 80 percent since the new systems went live, which has also lessened the amount of time district painters spend at the school covering the graffiti. The chances of a rival gang coming to mark the territory as its own have been lowered, as has the violence that often occurs when encountering each other at a graffiti site.


From a security perspective, the problem with such a large district is that it is not unusual for a fight to break out while the school’s dedicated police officer is responding to a different incident in another area. With cameras and the new VMS system at work, the officer can use the video to determine how many back-up officers are needed at which spots.

Students don’t always tell the full story after an incident. “Nobody wants to be known as a ‘snitch,’” Cho said. “Now nobody has to be because the video shows all, and the HD video really helps us identify people.”

In one case, a student punched another student in the face a number of times. Each witness interviewed by administrators after the incident had slightly different recollections, but the video provided the evidence needed to charge the perpetrator in court.

Cho reported that the system manager loves the Milestone system because it can be more easily and quickly managed. Under the previous system, programming one camera required navigating two separate operating systems. The Milestone system cuts that time in half.

“Plus, I can view it remotely with my iPad,” Cho said. “With the previous system, there was enough time to go get coffee between starting it and being able to log on. With Milestone, you just click and you’re on. It’s beautiful.”