What Use Are Security Cameras if No One's Watching?

      November 13, 2012 12:32

      The Board of Audit and Inspection has checked 17,471 CCTV cameras in 1,707 schools and found that 97 percent are unable to distinguish the faces of people or license plates of cars entering the grounds. It takes a camera with a resolution of more than 500,000 pixels in to do that, but the schools have installed cameras with inferior resolutions.

      The government has spent up to W10 billion (US$1=W1,089) a year to get schools to install proper CCTV cameras to prevent crime against pupils, but the money has apparently been wasted.

      The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology pushed schools to install CCTV cameras and achieved an impressive installation rate of 98 percent by June this year, up from less than 60 percent earlier. The project started in 2009, and now there are some 100,000 of them in 11,000 schools, or an average of nine for each school.

      But there are profound discrepancies. The BAI said one 410,000-pixel resolution CCTV camera at a girls' middle school in Incheon did not show the license plate of a car even when the image was blown up, whereas a 1 million-pixel resolution camera at an elementary school in Seoul clearly showed the license plate of a car driving into the grounds.

      The ministry recently discovered the problem and started replacing around 22,000 cameras across the nation with resolutions of less than 400,000 pixels. A security camera with a 400,000-pixel resolution costs W200,000, and one with 500,000 costs around W300,000, and the price tag rises to W2-3 million for over 1 million pixels. But that is a price worth paying in schools where there is a lot of coming and going.

      Between 2009 until August this year there were 1,066 crimes or accidents at schools involving outsiders, which averages out at 294 a year and 24 a month. Analysis of the various measures that have been taken to make schools safer, including security officers, police patrols and telephone hotlines, has found that CCTV cameras are the most effective. But 30 percent of the 1,707 schools the BAI checked have CCTV cameras that face the wrong way or are blocked by trees or other obstacles, and two out of every 10 schools put the monitors in the night watchman's room so they could not be viewed during the day.

      That means the cameras were effectively useless during school hours. Officials at some schools did not even know when their cameras were broken, while others simply ignored the problem. Still others had no idea how to play back the recordings. The waste of money and the incompetence of school officials are simply mind-boggling.

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