Some parents demand cameras at Pinole Valley High

December 23, 2010 7:05:32 PM PST
The city of Pinole and some parents are demanding that cameras be installed at their local high school because of a surge of crime on campus, but the district is in a financial crisis and doesn't know where that money would come from.

Pinole Valley High has always been a safe campus, but in the past year things started to change.

Police in Pinole say the high school has not experienced a sharp increase in the number of reported incidents, but it's the kind of crimes being committed that concerns them. There have been more gang fights on campus, for example.

"In April of this year there was a shooting at that track that took place that was involving rival gang members where we responded," says Pinole police Cmdr. John Hardester.

"Right here, boom, boom, boom, like three shots and fortunately it missed and hit one person in the hand," says Charles Ramsey.

Ramsey is the school board president of the West Contra Costa Unified School District. The board is actively searching for ways to make the campus safer. The city of Pinole is demanding surveillance cameras now and wants the school district to pay for them -- many parents agree.

"I think anything that would provide us a safer environment for all the students is a good idea," says parent Kathy Piscitelli.

Following the highly publicized 2009 gang rape, Richmond High installed high definition cameras, new fencing, and better lighting at a cost of $2 million. The district says crime there is down.

Cameras were also installed at the new Helms Middle School in San Pablo using bond money.

The same will eventually happen at Pinole Valley High. In two years, the school will be torn down to make room for a new one, which will include new surveillance cameras. So the district wonders if it makes sense to spend money now on a camera system for the old building that will be removed in a few years.

"We want to make a reasonable decision and we want to make sure that we are not spending money inappropriately," says Ramsey.

"I think the money could be better directed toward maybe school on site police," says parent Julie Mello.

A joint meeting between the school board and the Pinole City Council is scheduled for the beginning of the year.


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