Detroit Public Schools officials in the next six months will open a new police command center that will serve as the base of operations for a district-wide security system using high-tech video surveillance cameras and alarms to enhance public safety on all school campuses for all students.
Flanked by city, law enforcement and community-based crime prevention agencies, the district broke ground today on the new US$5.6 million Office of Public Safety Headquarters and Operations Center.
Construction will begin this month on the 23,000-square-foot building at 8500 Cameron Street, on the site of the former Sherrard School in the North End neighborhood. It will replace the existing police headquarters building on Woodward Avenue that was the site of a former car dealership and is so outdated that it cannot accommodate the technological infrastructure necessary to effectively monitor the schools. Construction is scheduled to be complete by December 2010.
The new Office of Public Safety is part of a $41.7 million initiative to improve safety and security through cutting-edge technology and infrastructure and a reorganization of the police department. The contract for the public safety building was awarded to Detroit-headquartered O'Brien Edwards Construction Company.
As part of the safety plan, activity at schools throughout the district will be monitored from the new headquarters and operations center using new digital video surveillance cameras at schools.
The new building also will house administration and operations offices for DPS public safety officers and staff, conference and training rooms, public waiting areas, dispatch center, in addition to holding rooms for juveniles and adults, intake and processing areas, as well an area to house the district's two canines from the K-9 unit.
"When I talk to DPS parents, many say that improving the safety and security of their children in schools is their topmost priority, even more than academics, which we know is an area of critical concern for them," said Robert Bobb, Emergency Financial Manager. "This new Office of Public Safety Headquarters and Operations Center is designed to greatly enhance the safety of students in our schools by improving our officers' ability to monitor and secure buildings, respond quickly in the case of an emergency and investigate incidents."
The facility will be fully operational in six months and is part of a full reorganization of the Office of Public Safety that will bring modern-day policing capabilities to the department, said DPS Inspector General John Bell, who oversees the Detroit Public Schools Office of Public Safety. The new headquarters will also house a reorganized investigations unit with a team of investigators headed by an Inspector.
"This building is the culmination of bringing the Office of Public Safety from functioning as a security force to one that supports modern-day law enforcement, which will mean improved security in our schools and buildings and enhanced safety for our students" Bell said.
The new security command center will be constructed as part of the DPS School Construction Program using $500.5 million of federal stimulus dollars resulting from the passing of the Proposal S Bond Referendum. In addition to the new home for the public safety office, district-wide security initiatives include high-tech video surveillance cameras and alarms and a new ID badge system to track students, employees and visitors entering and exiting campuses.
The new building will be constructed at the site of the former Sherrard and Breitmeyer schools, which were torn down as part of the district's plan to demolish 10 vacant schools, ridding neighborhoods of blight and creating jobs.
As part of the district's strategic plan to improve safety, the new high-tech headquarters will allow officers to monitor activity on school grounds using digital cameras via the Internet.
High schools will receive updated alarm and a video surveillance packages installed in stairwells, hallways, parking lots, entrances, computer labs, storage closets, gyms, cafeterias, among other locations, under surveillance at all times. Pre-K to 8 and elementary schools will also receive enhanced alarm and video surveillance coverage.
The systems also include continuous video surveillance monitoring systems for the district's police and a notification system tied to each school's PA, phone, bell and clock systems.
The alarm systems also will reduce the opportunity for theft of district supplies, said Bell. The alarm systems are able to pinpoint not just which school has an incident, but will identify the precise location in a school, allowing officers to respond more effectively.
All district employees will be issued biometric identification badges that will be tied into the payroll and attendance-tracking systems. Employees will be required to sign in and out using their new badges, along with a thumbprint verification system.
The new system will replace the three outdated badge systems currently in place and will facilitate better monitoring of employee attendance.
Detroit voters approved the Proposal S Bond Referendum last November which enabled the district to access $500.5 million in federal dollars for school capital improvement projects. DPS received the sixth largest allocation in the nation.