CPS spending $76 million to upgrade aging security cameras

High-definition cameras will be installed at 311 district schools over three years, CPS announced Wednesday, including at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen, where two students were killed after school last year.

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Students at Eli Whitney Elementary School walk past security cameras Wednesday morning at the Southwest Side school.

Students at Eli Whitney Elementary School walk past security cameras Wednesday at the Southwest Side school.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools is spending $76 million to replace outdated security cameras at hundreds of schools.

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High-definition cameras will be installed at 311 district schools over three years, CPS announced Wednesday. Among the schools getting new cameras is Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen, where two teens were killed last year.

“When you saw some of the footage that was fuzzy, those cameras were older ... analog cameras,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said about the December mass shooting. “Those cameras are being updated as we speak.”

Martinez spoke at Little Village’s Eli Whitney Elementary, 2815 S. Komensky Ave., one of the first schools to get upgrades. The work began a few months ago.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses a $76 million investment in new security cameras for the district during a news conference Wednesday at Eli Whitney Elementary School on the Southwest Side.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez discusses a $76 million investment in new security cameras for the district during a news conference Wednesday at Eli Whitney Elementary School on the Southwest Side.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

CPS plans to spend $13.5 million for 63 schools this year; $30.9 million for 135 schools in 2024; and $31.9 million for 133 schools in 2025.

CPS Chief of Safety and Security Jadine Chou did not disclose how many cameras will be replaced or how many cameras will be added.

Each school will be assessed for how many new cameras will be added.

“One school, we might be adding 20, 30 cameras. Another school, we may be adding 80, 90 cameras,” Chou said.

CPS will prioritize schools based on the condition of existing cameras, crime statistics in and around the school, the CPS Equity Opportunity Index and school enrollment, the district said in a statement.

A new security camera hangs in the hallway Wednesday morning at Eli Whitney Elementary School on the Southwest Side.

A new security camera in the hallway at Eli Whitney Elementary School on the Southwest Side.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

While cameras can’t prevent crime, they do help security officers monitor large parts of the school they cannot cover in person, Martinez said.

“I could multiply personnel by 10 times. It’s still not going to have the kind of coverage you have with technology,” Martinez said.

Last year, after the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, Martinez announced CPS would invest in new cameras.

CPS cameras are connected to the district’s central security unit, the Chicago Police Department and the city’s 911 center, Chou said.

The camera initiative is funded by a combination of money from CPS’ capital fund and COVID-19 relief fund, Martinez said.

CPS connected its cameras with the Chicago Police Department in 2008 after the massacre at Northern Illinois University. The $418,000 upgrade of the district’s 4,500 school cameras was financed by federal Department of Homeland Security money.

Earlier this month, the Sun-Times reported that fatal shootings of children in the hours after school dismissal spiked last year, with nine children 17 years old and younger killed.

Joseph Ramirez, senior security officer at Eli Whitney Elementary School, watches security cameras Wednesday at the Southwest Side school.

Joseph Ramirez, senior security officer at Eli Whitney Elementary School, watches security cameras Wednesday at the Southwest Side school.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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