What's really going on behind closed doors? - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

What's really going on behind closed doors?

CLEVELAND – It seems that violence, rowdiness and trouble in Cleveland public schools dominates the headlines, but Action News' Ed Gallek found out that new technology might change all of that.

It's a story that you could have only seen on Action News.

At Cleveland's South High School, cameras are always monitoring the hallways, cafeterias, front doors and more. Every two seconds, they take pictures.

Cleveland school security officers can hop on any computer and instantly watch students and solve crimes.

Security officer Bernard Watkins showed Action News just how easy it is to monitor what's going on at the school. Within seconds of sitting down in front of a computer, Watkins called up a live image of student activity.

They can even go back days or weeks or months. Just ask Antonio Johnson.

Investigators called up an old image after a fire at South High. The image showed Johnson walking into a room and then, seconds later, it showed smoke.

"I'd be so grateful if I could get one more chance so I could finish school," Johnson said after having no choice but to admit his guilt.

The Cleveland School District said that the cameras are cutting down on trouble because the word is getting out that pranks and crimes are being recorded.

"The system has proven quite valuable to us," Watkins said. "Sometimes there were disciplinary actions like pulling fire alarms, but oftentimes, it also involved criminal activity -- burglaries and thefts."

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, doesn't approve of the system. ACLU officials have said that it's spying and they point out that Columbine High School had cameras, but still couldn't stop the deadly shootings there.

Action News found support for the system from an unlikely source -- Johnson's mother. She said that the camera system is a good thing.

Johnson got probation.

The cameras are in a handful of schools now. They'll be in many more by the end of the year and in every Cleveland school by 2005. It's not cheap though. The total cost will be nearly $7 million.

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