This is one of the most tangible security technologies that I have worked with that could actually save lives. Just imagine how effective it would be if a school resource officer or law enforcement officer could be notified in near real-time if a weapon is seen from one of the school’s security cameras.
Local school divisions in Virginia are eligible to receive up to $100,000 for security upgrades for the 2018 and 2019 school year. The upgrades must fall under the authorized equipment list, which includes “Surveillance equipment and cameras” and “Technology equipment to support security systems”.
While the monthly service fees for cameras are not covered by the Virginia security grant, the image processing server should (could) be. The VDOE Division of Support Services says that systems such as these are NOT covered by their grants.
I spoke with Hunter Barnes, an “Architectural Consultant” for the Virginia DOE, to try and understand why such a system would not be covered by the grant. He told me that I “should not be evening asking questions about the grant” because I am not a school official. He continued to explain that according to his director, Vija Ramnarain, the reason that these weapon detection systems are not eligible is because they are “software based”.
Mr Hunter advised me to talk to his Director, Vijay Ramnarain who received a degree in Architecture in 1979. Mr Ramnarain has been with the VDOE for over 30 years and has not replied to emails asking why such a system wouldn’t be covered. His Linked-in profile makes no mention of any security credentials or experience but lists his primary skills as “Public Speaking”, “Strategic Planning”, and “Program Management”.
As for the weapons detection systems, like the one that Athena Security is selling, the cost of such a system is hardly a drop in the bucket. Most schools should have only a single point of entry into the building, which means one camera per school building. With a school district like Staunton Virginia, this would mean that about 6 cameras would be needed. That’s approximately $14,000 a year for a full setup in Staunton Virginia.
$14,000 per year is not a lot of money for a security enhancement that can detect weapons in real-time and give added protection to all our schools.
I have done extensive research and development with real-time weapons detection. You can view my weapons detection research project on github. With even the most basic data-sets I was able to develop a neural network model that can detect handguns.
The technology works and several companies are already selling or piloting their software. Just imagine how effective it would be if a school resource officer or law enforcement officer could be notified in near real-time if a weapon is seen from one of the school’s security cameras.
As to why The VDOE would not allow such a system to be purchased with school security grant money, I have no answers and frankly, it saddens me.