Sexual Assault at School, Faulty Cameras Cited

By: Carlton Purvis, Published on Nov 27, 2013

After a female student was carried to an empty room and sexually assaulted, a local TV station reported that the cameras were not working [link no longer available] during the time of the incident. A Kansas City Public Schools spokesman later confirmed the cameras were broken and that they were not fixed until the day after the incident.

In this note, we share our findings from speaking with the school and the integrator about what happened with the cameras and how they impacted this case.

The System and Its Role

The system costed nearly $1 million and includes Panasonic cameras and SmartVue NVRs.

Contrary to what the news story implies, there were no cameras positioned in places that would have provided much information to the case, according to the integrator. However, we could not verify this.

Here is the video from the story [link no longer available]:

Problems with the System

The problems with the district’s camera systems were usually easy fixes, according to Robert Harper, president of 
ACS Electronic Systems, but sometimes took weeks to coordinate repairs. 

For example, a power outage knocked out 13 cameras at a one high school and they only needed to be reset. At another high school a construction project damaged a server and cabling. At another school a camera and server went missing after a construction project. 

“I don’t think any of these are necessarily unusual items for a dealer. The difference is that [Kansas City Public Schools] is hard to deal with,” Harper said.

The problem at Southwest Early College Campus, the school where the sexual assault happened, was caused by the district’s own IT department, according to the integrator.  

After a network switch went out, ACS reset the switch.

Emails between the school’s security staff and ACS show the school contacted the integrator on August 16th and again on August 19th when the cameras went out again. On the 22nd, ACS went to the school, but no one with a key to the server room was available to let them reset the switch or troubleshoot the problem (IT has a key to the room, but only security, who doesn’t have a key, is there after hours).

The school’s security director says he couldn’t get a hold of ACS again for days. ACS finally confirmed and appointment for August 30th. The following is an email sent to ACS one day before the sexual assault:

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

When ACS finally did get in to the closet, they found that IT department had changed the "port addresses." The cameras were functioning, but the data wasn’t going where it was supposed to be.

Bad Communication Between School and Integrator

ACS is under contract to be on call for any service requests in the district, but also works with 40 other school districts or campuses in the Kansas City area.

An initial look at the documents released by the school district seems to show the company was generally unresponsive. Emails released in response to a public records request from KSHB show ACS Electronic Systems, the company responsible for maintenance of the system sometimes would not respond to requests for weeks.

However, ACS says the emails don't necessarily show the whole story and that miscommunication came from lack of organization on the part of the district, which had 14 people in several different departments communicating with ACS about maintenance requests. 

The school doesn't deny that. With too many people who could send a request to ACS it was hard for the integrator to prioritize requests, and there were several people contacting him from several different schools, the district spokesman admitted.

“We had been having difficulties leading up to the assault and unfortunately that happened and it pushed us to act more quickly,” the district spokesman said. “We knew the cameras weren’t working a week or two ahead of time. We were working with ACS, we just couldn’t get it tidied up fast enough.” 

The integrator says they were calling the school back, but even with those returned calls they would make little progress. “We were originally told more than once that the security director had to approve any service requests. We would get an email from one of the 14 people and we would pick up the phone and call the person who was supposed to approve it, the security director,” he said. “The security director would pick up the phone and say ‘Let me check on that’ and we would wait. And then we would get another email from the person and we’d call again and the director would say ‘Oh, I’m still working on that.’ If we don’t get approved by the security director for the work, then we don’t get paid.”

Communication Plan Established

The school district and ACS had a meeting where both sides agreed to do more to facilitate communication. The district has designated three people who would be authorized contact ACS for maintenance requests. ACS designated a single person to be the point of contact for the school.

They also came up with a triage system to prioritize requests and mandate response times. A new agreement between Kansas City Public Schools says requests for critical repairs must be responded to within 24 hours, critical but non life-threatening repairs must have a response within three days and for non-critical repairs they will work out a mutually beneficial time to get them fixed.

The district plans to create an in-house position for someone who can take care of the surveillance systems too. And now ACS says it follows every verbal communication with an email. He said the school has repeatedly declined a $25 per month system health monitoring service. 

Contract Renewal

The district’s contract is up for renewal in December. The school declined to say what the new contract would look like because it is still being worked out, but said it would likely include some changes to maintenance procedures. 

IPVM Recommendations

While IPVM can not determine the specific issues in this case, some clear principles are illustrated:

Most importantly, larger end users should ensure they have a clear internal reporting structure with one, or at most a few central individuals, reporting and managing issues with an integrator. By contrast, having lots of people report problems individually can cause problems. 

A maintenance plan that covered all service in an annual fee rather than having to approve every issue piecemeal (as it occurred here) would have radically simplified the maintenance process as it eliminates the need of customer approval to ensure payment. See our Service / Maintenance Contracts Guide

Integrators need access to both user facilities and restricted resources (like rooms and networking equipment). This can be difficult to coordinate and is easy source of strife (e.g., each party blaming each other).

Members, what else would you recommend to do to minimize this type of problem?

1 report cite this report:

Bad Marketing Beware - Intransa is Back! on Mar 13, 2015
After burning $100+ million on a mythical 'secret sauce', quietly going out of business, dropping all warranties, could Intransa top...
Comments (16) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Verified Response Discontinued in Silicon Valley San Jose on Feb 28, 2019
Almost all security alarms are false. This has driven some municipalities to require verified response before dispatching police. However, now San...
US City Sued For Hiding Surveillance Camera Map on Mar 08, 2019
UPDATE: The judgment is now in and updated information is at the bottom of the post. Should maps of public surveillance camera locations be kept...
NJ Law Requires Apprenticeship For Public Works Integrators on May 24, 2019
Few integrators do a formal apprenticeship program. However, now a NJ law is requiring any integrator on public works projects (such as state...
Verkada Wins $783,000 Memphis Deal on Apr 29, 2019
The US city, most famous in video surveillance for standardizing on Hikvision, has issued an RFQ for 962 Verkada cameras due Wednesday, May 1,...
San Francisco Face Recognition Ban And Surveillance Regulation Details Examined on May 14, 2019
San Francisco passed the legislation 8-1 today. While the face recognition 'ban' has already received significant attention over the past few...
Kidnapping Victim Rescued With Video From Ring Doorbell Camera on May 24, 2019
A kidnapping victim was rescued within 24 hours, with the police crediting video from a Ring Doorbell camera as key to solving the case. A girl was...
First Video Surveillance GDPR Fine In France on Jul 08, 2019
The French government has imposed a sizeable fine on a small business for violating the GDPR after it constantly filmed employees without informing...
New GDPR Guidelines for Video Surveillance Examined on Jul 18, 2019
The highest-level EU data protection authority has issued a new series of provisional video surveillance guidelines. While GDPR has been in...
UK Facewatch GDPR Compliance Questioned on Aug 27, 2019
Even as the GDPR strictly regulates biometrics, a UK company called Facewatch is selling anti-shoplifter facial recognition systems to hundreds of...
France Declares School Facial Recognition Illegal Due to GDPR on Oct 31, 2019
France is the latest European country to effectively prohibit facial recognition as a school access control solution, even with the consent of...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Latest London Police Facial Recognition Suffers Serious Issues on Feb 24, 2020
On February 20, IPVM visited another live face rec deployment by London police, but this time the system was thwarted by technical problems and...
Masks Cause Major Facial Recognition Problems on Feb 24, 2020
Coronavirus is spurring an increase in the use of medical masks, which new IPVM test results show cause major problems for facial recognition...
Every VMS Will Become a VSaaS on Feb 21, 2020
VMS is ending. Soon every VMS will be a VSaaS. Competitive dynamics will be redrawn. What does this mean? VMS Historically...
Video Surveillance 101 Course - Last Chance on Feb 20, 2020
This is the last chance to join IPVM's first Video Surveillance 101 course, designed to help those new to the industry to quickly understand the...
Vulnerability Directory For Access Credentials on Feb 20, 2020
Knowing which access credentials are insecure can be difficult to see, especially because most look and feel the same. Even insecure 125 kHz...
AI/Smart Camera Tutorial on Feb 20, 2020
Cameras with video analytics, sometimes called 'Smart' camera or 'AI' cameras, etc. are one of the most promising growth areas of video...
China Manufacturer Suffers Coronavirus Scare on Feb 20, 2020
Uniview suffered a significant health scare last week after one of its employees reported a fever and initially tested positive for coronavirus....
Cheap Camera Problems at Night on Feb 19, 2020
Cheap cameras generally have problems at night, despite the common perception that integrated IR makes cameras mostly the same, according to new...
Milestone Launches Multiple Cloud Solutions on Feb 18, 2020
Milestone is going to the cloud, becoming one of the last prominent VMSes to do so. Milestone is clearly late but how competitive do these new...
Video Surveillance Architecture 101 on Feb 18, 2020
Video surveillance can be designed and deployed in a number of ways. This 101 examines the most common options and architectures used in...