New Upstate school district cameras connect with weapon detectors

New cameras and additional weapon detection machines look to improve safety
A look at the school's new security devices
Published: Aug. 19, 2023 at 12:25 AM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Greenville County Schools are adding three more weapon detection machines and cameras that connect with that system to the security program this school year.

Principal at League Academy, Mary Leslie Anderson, said, “Some of our sixth graders, the first time you, kind of, go, what is this? But I think it makes them feel safe. I know it makes parents feel safe.” She added, “This is just a routine thing that happens at school.”

The Evolv machines get set up within minutes at different schools across the district each day.

Greenville County Schools Director of Security, Safety & Emergency Preparedness, Travis Forrester, said, “In the mornings We’re always there before the first student arrives for our intake.” He continued, “If the school only uses one intake point, then we could go to three different schools.”

While speaking about how the machines work, Forrester said, “It looks for mostly firearms, and it looks for the shapes cylinders, what may be a slide on a semiautomatic would look like, all the way down to ammunition.”

“As they walk through here, the machine is able to detect and look at bags, pockets. It also has a target search indicator. So that also allows us, the faculty and staff, that, you know, if a kid comes through and we get an alert, we’re able to target that search,” said Forrester.

As FOX Carolina News cameras were at League Academy, we were able to see the Evolv system recognize our camera gear.

Principal Anderson said, “It doesn’t disrupt class, so that teachers are good with that.”

Along with the additional machines, another major upgrade is coming across the district. Greenville County Schools is adding cameras that connect with the Evolv machines.

If the system alerts a student, or if a student turns around when they see the machines at school, the cameras can track the student across campus and even outside.

Principal Anderson said, “It’s not like we find major weapons at our school or at other Greenville County schools. But this peace of mind in the climate that we’re in today I think is huge for everybody.”

Students never know when the machines will be set up at school, or events like a football game. Forrester said, “With the weather rated and the mobile aspect of the way we deploy them, we were able to use them at festivals and pageants and proms, our sporting events.”

Forrester and his team pick the schools randomly, and go at different times during the day. He said, “In our breakout sessions where we arrive throughout the day, we can do a couple of classes all the way up to several grades, several wings of a school, depending on what the principal needs or wants.”

When speaking about why the district randomly deploys the machines, Forrester said, “If we have a machine that we put stationary, that becomes a routine, routine breeds complacency. And complacency is where we fail in our in the security world.”

In the first year of using the Evolv machines, 2022, the district reports that at least 600,000 people went through. We asked Forrester what they found. He said, “No major firearms or weapons of any sort. It’s a huge deterrent.”