An ounce of prevention

For schools and law enforcement agencies seeking guidance on security technologies,

a report by the National Institute of Justice, "The Appropriate and Effective

Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools," provides nontechnical, non-vendor-specific

information on the kinds of available products; the products' strengths,

weaknesses and effectiveness in a school environment; costs for installation,

operation, maintenance and training; requirements for requests for quotations;

and legal issues that may arise.

Here's how the report summarized some technologies:

Video cameras — As part of a closed-circuit television system, cameras

can be expensive to install and maintain, and they require some technical

knowledge to operate. The cost for a standard-resolution, solid-state camera

ranges from $300 to $1,000; higher-range ones cost about $1,500 to $8,000.

Life span is typically more than five years. A good-quality VCR may cost

$500 to $1,200. A time-lapse VCR, which records at specific time intervals,

can range from $500 to $2,700. A digital recorder, which requires no maintenance

or cleaning, and a compression system to store images cost about $4,500.

Metal detectors — Devices that detect any material that will conduct an

electrical current are only as good as the operator using them. A walk-through

or portal detector is about seven feet high, can weigh 60 to 150 pounds

and can cost from $1,000 to as much as $30,000. Schools can typically look

to spend about $4,000 to $5,000 for a good one. Life span is 10 years or

more. Handheld scanners, which run on batteries, are a viable technology,

and most work well. They cost about $20 to $350. Life span is about five

years depending on usage.

X-ray equipment — X-ray equipment typically costs $30,000, but can range

up to $1 million and will last 10 years or more. Service contracts are generally

expensive, but little maintenance is needed. Manpower costs to operate the

equipment are high.

Entry-control devices — Although security guards can do more than simply

check an identification card, the job is mundane and salaries run $8,000

to $30,000 a year. Using a card with an automatic reader does not require

manpower, but more than one person can enter at a time, and it is subject

to vandalism.

Cost for the system — printer, digital camera and software — is $6,000 to $8,000. Entering a PIN on a keypad is more secure than a

swipe card but may require more administrative oversight. Cost is $200 to

$1,200 or more depending on sophistication. Biometric devices, such as fingerprint

and palm scanners, can cost about $1,200 to $5,000 for a stand-alone. It

is much higher — $10,000 to $50,000 — for a system that oversees several


Source: "The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies

in U.S. Schools," National Institute of Justice


  • innovation (Sergey Nivens/

    VA embraces procurement challenges at scale

    Steve Kelman applauds the Department of Veterans Affairs' ambitious attempt to move beyond one-off prize-based contests to combat veteran suicides more effectively.

  • big data AI health data

    Where did the ideas for shutdowns and social distancing come from?

    Steve Kelman offers another story about hero civil servants (and a good president).

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.