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Local school district turns to license plate readers for added security

The district plans to immediately start installing license plate readers in of its schools following board approval.

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — You’ve probably heard of neighborhoods and police agencies using license plate readers to solve crimes. Now Fulton County Schools’ safety plan includes installing those same types of cameras.

The district would be among the first in Georgia to do so.

11Alive spoke with Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney prior to Tuesday’s school board meeting to learn more about the security plan, which the district began expanding following the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May.

“We have a renewed sense of energy and urgency as always to school safety. It's always been really important in Fulton County, but obviously as a result of the mass shooting that happened and as our students have come back to school in person for the last 18 months, we have noticed that they've lost some of their social skills, including how to resolve conflicts without using their fists," he said. "And so we've been meeting and intervening and have developed some strategies that I think alone will help us.”

A newly formed safety committee is now recommending Fulton County Schools install Flock Safety cameras as part of those security efforts, giving the district the ability to proactively monitor schools.

 “We want to keep bad actors away from our school building,” Looney said of the strategy. “So Flock cameras will be at the entrance where you have all of our school campuses so that when a vehicle drives on campus, we actually read their license plate."

The cameras scan license plates and vehicle characteristics, though not people and faces. The system can then proactively check national and local criminal databases and alert law enforcement in real-time if warranted.

“So if somebody comes on school grounds, as an example, that's been banned, a student that’s been expelled for bringing a gun to school, not only will our law enforcement agency be notified immediately if that happens, but so, too, will the local jurisdiction,” Looney said.

Flock Safety currently works with about a dozen school districts across the country, according to a company spokesperson. The plan for the cameras, which the district reports will cost $626,300 and be funded through ESPLOST, is pending a final vote set for the district’s Sept. 22 board meeting.

Looney said as soon as the board gives the green light, the district plans to immediately begin installation with the hope all schools could have Flock cameras by January.

Other safety initiatives in the works, according to the superintendent, include installing emergency alarms on all school exterior doors as well as equipping all employees with wearable devices similar to panic buttons so that if something happens in the classroom or playground or parking lot, staff can instantly call for help. Looney previously called for an emergency order for the door alarms while the panic button devices will be discussed further in October.

“[Staff] already have notification systems in place,” Looney said. “They can notify anyone of an emergency happening in their in their classroom, but we want to make it easier.”

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