When more than 270,000 students in Broward return to school Wednesday, there will be added security on campuses, more surveillance cameras and a new monitoring system that allows the Broward Sheriff’s Office to access video feeds in real time to address an immediate threat.
“The message ... is that the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff himself, the entire command staff, all the county commissioners are doing every single thing we can in our power to ensure their safety,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office Captain Michael Riggio Tuesday after giving reporters a glimpse of BSO’s new $2 million Real Time Crime Center. “That is the most important mission — to save lives and protect the safety of all residents and the students.”
Riggio, who heads BSO’s Threat Management Division, said the center is a collaboration among Broward County Public Schools, BSO and the county commission. The 2,600-square-foot center in BSO’s Fort Lauderdale headquarters allows deputies to access the more than 10,000 cameras in more than 260 schools across the county.
The room has a video wall that can show feeds from 20 work stations.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said when he took office in January, one of his goals was to look at the department’s deficiencies and come up with ways to boost school safety.
“We learned lessons from Stoneman Douglas,” he said, referring to the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 students and staff members dead and 17 more injured. “One of the pivotal things we were able to witness and look at was the ability to have real-time intelligence when crimes are happening.”
BSO was heavily criticized for its response to the shootings, costing the former sheriff, Scott Israel, his job.
A pilot program of the real-time center began in January. Since then, the Threat Management Unit — which focuses on identifying high-risk individuals who may cause violence — has investigated 175 cases, resulting in 41 arrests.
What the center does is allows deputies to give “tactical guidance” in real time to those on scene. Last year, personnel from the center gave guidance to deputies at schools in 142 incidents, including lockdowns and code reds.
Riggio used an example that happened at the end of the school year. A 911 call came in reporting that a student who had graduated had returned to a school and wasn’t supposed to be there. Deputies in the center found the student in a stairwell with the help of the video feed, and guided deputies at the school to where the student was.
Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said the district has added 521 school safety personnel and 2,500 cameras, and is spending $53 million on safety.
“This partnership is about collaboration,” Runcie said. “It’s about leveraging technology that we have in the district and it’s about leadership coming together. Because keeping our schools ... and keeping our kids safe is not just a school district responsibility, it’s all of our responsibilities.”