Nineteen Philadelphia schools deeply affected by gun violence will get state-of-the-art security cameras installed outside in an effort to curb crime and ensure students’ safe passage to and from schools, officials announced Monday.
The effort will come from a $1.8 million package to be introduced Tuesday, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke said outside Bartram High School, where a 17-year-old student was shot and killed nearby just after dismissal time in January.
The money will pay for at least 100 new security cameras through the city’s capital budget. An additional $1 million will be added in the operating budget to fund analysts to review real-time footage in 15 corridors identified by the Philadelphia School District and the police department.
The 19 schools getting new cameras are Edison High School/Clemente Middle School, Mastbaum High, Bartram High, South Philadelphia High, Fels High, Lincoln High/Meehan Middle School/Northeast Community Propel Academy, Dobbins High, Ben Franklin High, Duckrey Elementary, High School of the Future, Frankford High, Kensington CAPA, Northeast High/Woodrow Wilson Middle School, Roxborough High, and Harding Middle School.
The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 last month shocked the country, Clarke said, but Philadelphia has its own crisis, with multiple young people shot on their way to and from school this year.
“We have Bartram,” Clarke said at a news conference. “We have Dobbins.”
Since last August, more than 500 young people have been shot in the city, and 90 of them have died, said Craig Johnson, the district’s deputy chief of School Safety.
“We all know we need to stop losing almost an entire generation of young people,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, who supports the move to install cameras and the increased city funding it will take.
City schools have some cameras, but they are old, analog ones that don’t provide real-time information and don’t cover much ground. The new technology will provide more comprehensive security, with footage feeding into a central system.
Students must feel safe going to and from school, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said.
“It’s evident that more has to be done,” Outlaw said.
City Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez said cameras won’t solve every problem and can’t be used in isolation, but they are an important tool, both as a deterrent and as potential evidence when crimes occur.
“We need to create a culture of — if you’re going to do something, somebody’s going to be watching you,” Quiñones Sánchez said. “We want September to start with a different tone.”
Along with the new cameras, city and district officials have added a “safe path” program, paying community members at four schools to provide extra security for students on their way to and from school. Police also stepped up security in 25 school zones hard-hit by gun violence.
Brian Johnson, Bartram’s principal, said that if the cameras had been installed in January, when Christopher Braxton was killed nearby, “we probably would have an idea right then and there who shot” Braxton. It might have also allowed the school to hold its graduation outside, at the school’s newly-refurbished athletic complex, instead of inside.
Johnson said he moved graduation inside because of fears of violence.
“That’s not something that we want to have to think about on a special day like graduation day,” he said.
City Councilmember Cherelle Parker described the new cameras as a pilot program that will likely expand if successful.
“This should be standard operating procedure at every school in the School District of Philadelphia,” Parker said.