New York City

City will install new door-locking camera system in schools to prevent shootings

Schools Chancellor David Banks made the announcement at a briefing hosted by his brother, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks.

P.S. 65 in Brooklyn

P.S. 65 in Brooklyn Smallbones via Wikimedia Commons

Hoping to prevent potential mass shootings, the city plans to begin implementing an expensive door-locking camera system – similar to an apartment’s video doorbell – at the entrances of New York City schools in May.

The system, which will be implemented in elementary schools first, will allow school safety agents to view and communicate with visitors before they are permitted to enter the building, schools Chancellor David Banks said on Friday during a public safety briefing overseen by his brother, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks. The idea is to keep out anyone with ill intentions out – not parents of students, he said. First responders would be able to punch in a code to override the system in case of an emergency. The city’s goal is to expand the system to all schools by next spring.

The plan garnered vigorous debate within the city’s Panel for Educational Policy before members approved the $43 million contract with Symbrant Technologies, Inc in February. The mayor’s preliminary budget proposal indicates the cost for upgrades would be even higher and would cost about $78 million.The vote came as a surprise to the New York City Council – Education Committee chair Rita Joseph said she didn’t hear about the plan until after it was approved.

Critics say there is little evidence that the system will work as intended. Some have also questioned whether it would prevent students fleeing danger from seeking safety in a school building. Banks dismissed this concern, saying that as long as there are people in the building, a school safety agent will be around to let students in.

“There’s no system that will answer every single question and be fully responsive,” Banks said. “The number of students that we have who are just out on the streets who need to run into a school is few and far between. The challenge that we have is to ensure that we keep all of these kids safe.”