Del Mar school district board postpones funding decision for surveillance cameras

By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) board held off for now on approving $13,000 in consulting fees for Networld Solutions, a company that specializes in video surveillance to help with the district’s campus theft problems. The item was up for approval at the district’s Nov. 20 meeting, but the board opted to wait until more of its questions on the issue were resolved.

Del Mar Union School Board President Doug Rafner was concerned that the cost of consulting was already at $13,000 and once they purchased the equipment, costs could be at $100,000 quickly.

“The level of security doesn’t have to approximate that of Fort Knox,” Rafner said. “As much as we don’t want to see break-ins, I don’t know that this is going to prevent them from happening.”

Since July, break-ins have occurred seven times in the Del Mar school district, resulting in the thefts of computers and damage to campus buildings. Most of the incidents have occurred between 1 and 4 a.m., and campuses such as Del Mar Heights, Ocean Air and Sage Canyon have been victimized as well as the district office.

Cathy Birks, assistant superintendent of business services, said the cost to the district from all of the burglaries was a total of $3,500, thanks to the district’s insurance coverage with the San Diego County Schools Risk Management Joint Powers Authority Property and Liability Program.

“But that number doesn’t include all the anxiety of wondering if anything will happen again and the time Randy (Wheaton, director of maintenance) put in being called at 1 and 2 a.m. to secure the sites,” Birks said. “By moving forward in taking a look at security and going out to bid, it gives us another layer of security to what we’re doing now.”

Trustee Scott Wooden said the cost of the break-ins might not warrant spending the money on surveillance cameras.

“This is a lot of money that we can spend on a lot of other things in the district,” Wooden said “Is it overkill?”

He pointed out that over the last 10 years there hasn’t been a lot of break-ins and the rash of burglaries over the summer appeared to be a spree that has since ended.

Trustee Alan Kholos wondered if there was a way to tap into the parents and experts they have in the district for consulting rather than spend the $13,000. He also said while he respects the staff’s work on this issue, he isn’t sure that surveillance is the key to preventing burglaries.

“The threshold for me is the need for the overall system,” Kholos said.

District Superintendent Holly McClurg said it is up to the board to determine the sense of urgency for the surveillance cameras and the board agreed to table the issue until a future meeting, possibly next year.

While the board has paused on the issue of surveillance cameras, Rafner said it should be clear that the district has taken several steps to secure its campuses.

“Security is not lacking,” he promised. “It’s tighter than it’s ever been.”