Dearth of CCTV Cameras Allow Swastikas, False Alarms to Go Unpunished in New Rochelle Schools

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Despite dozens of incidents of false fire alarm pulls and hate crimes in New Rochelle’s three largest public schools over the past two years, no student has been caught and charged with a crime.

The reason for that has been identified in every security audit ordered up by the New Rochelle Board of Education since Columbine. Over the past twenty years, there have been four security audits and three major versions of SAVE Law School Safety Plans:

2002: First SAVE Law School Safety Plan

2009: Security Audit: Joseph Casbarro, Rosemary Lee

2013: Security Audit: Vigilant Resources

2013: Second SAVE Law School Safety Plan

2018: Security Audit: Guidepost Solutions

2018: Third SAVE Law School Safety Plan

2019: Security Audit: Alteris

Every security audit of the District schools has identified four major problems with CCTV cameras: (1) no school has full interior coverage; (2) the vast majority of schools have little or no exterior coverage; (3) the vast majority of schools have little, insufficient or no camera monitoring capability; (4) no one is assigned at any of the schools to monitor cameras in real time.

As a result, school security is left to react to incidents long after they have happened not as they occur, schools on lockdown/lockout have no situational awareness because they are blind to what is happening outside the building, and incidents that occur in and around the school are often not captured on video at all.

For example, after Bryan Stamps stabbed a classmate last year, it took 25 minutes before the school was put on lockout because school security officers and police officers did not begin reviewing CCTV footage until 15 minutes after the stabbing. Once they identified him leaving the building the school was put on lockout. No one knew where Stamps went after he left the building due to the lack of exterior CCTV cameras. He escaped and disappeared for 3 months.

When a man was found hiding in a closet at Barnard school there was no CCTV footage at all.

There has been no CCTV footage of recent incidents of false fire alarm pulls or the drawing, carving and painting of Swastikas.

In the week before Thanksgiving, newly-hired Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo was confronted with her first anti-Semitic incidents after four Swastikas were found at New Rochelle High School. The police were called to the scene on November 21st and again on November 22nd. As has become customary, the school community was not informed of the incidents.

When asked to comment on the November 21-22 incidents on December 10th, Dr. Feijóo said “multiple swastikas have been found in our schools over the past few weeks.”

Note that she said “schools” not “school” and “over the past few weeks” not “last month”. Feijóo knew what the community did not — that there had been a fifth Swastika, with an expletive, found earlier that day on the blacktop behind Albert Leonard Middle School bringing the total since November 2018 to 20 Swastikas found in New Rochelle public schools.

In her December 10th statement, Feijóo promised to “identify those responsible”.

No one has been identified as responsible for the five Swastikas found during the first six weeks of her tenure as Superintendent, or the 15 other Swastikas found in the past 13 months.

No one has been identified in the blacktop incident because there is no exterior CCTV camera pointed at the blacktop behind Albert Leonard Middle School. No students have been identified in the other 19 incidents because they have all occurred in areas with insufficient CCTV camera coverage or, in some cases such as bathrooms, no coverage at all.

There has been a persistent problem with false fire alarm pulls by students. Falsely reporting an incident in the second degree is a class E felony.

False fire alarms have gotten increasing attention from parents and students at New Rochelle High School. There is a belief among many that there has been an increase in the number of false fire alarms. At a 2018 meeting of the District-Wide Healthy and Safety Committee, interim Principal Joseph Starvaggi blamed the increase on students vaping in bathrooms.

A review of five years of alarm data provided to the District-Wide Healthy and Safety Committee by the New Rochelle Fire Department and the New Rochelle School District’s Facility Department showed no increase in fire alarms. The past two years show a slight decrease. The District does not have vaping sensors installed at any schools in the District.

Earlier this month there were two incidents of false fire alarm pulls at New Rochelle High School. Both incidents were reported to the New Rochelle Police Department. In the first case, police closed their investigation without making an arrest. The second investigation remains open.

Students are not caught pulling fire alarms because the alarms are not all in range of CCTV cameras.

The Vigilant Resources security audit in 2014 was the first to note that exteriors doors throughout the District do not have a system of hardwired alarms and CCTV cameras that connect back to a central monitoring station. At the high school, localized battery-operated alarms were installed on some exterior doors but do not sound in a central monitoring station. When the batteries die they are typically not replaced so they do not sound at all. Exterior doors are not monitored by CCTV cameras so even if school security staff is aware that an exterior door is opened they cannot see who entered or exited the building. At the rest of the schools there is no alarm/camera system on exterior doors at all.

After stabbing and killing a fellow student, the perpetrator and her accomplices were later found on video tape to have been in New Rochelle High School before and after Z’inah Brown murdered Valeree Schwab but there was no record of Brown entering or exiting the building through a security checkpoint that day. Security audits have documented that students (and staff) routinely enter and exit through unsecured exterior doors.

Since 2009, the school budget has allocated about $40 million for school security. None of it has been spent on installing a proper CCTV camera and monitoring system. Until that happens, there will be more hate crimes and more false fire alarm pulls, and no identification of those responsible.

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