An incident involving an armed man outside of a New Jersey elementary school underscores the need for legislators to implement the proper security measures to protect students from gun violence.
When the police department of Westfield, New Jersey received a tip from Delaware law enforcement that an armed man might be traveling to one of the district’s schools, officers were on the scene at Tamaques Elementary School within minutes. Upon arrival, they found Thomas J. Wilkie in an SUV with a loaded .45-caliber handgun and 130 rounds of extra ammunition. Wilkie was quickly arrested, the campus was given the all-clear, and students were permitted to return home.
Following the episode, New Jersey officials were quick to call for smarter gun control legislation across the state, backing proposals from Governor Phil Murphy. As Union County Freeholder Chairwoman Bette Jane Kowalski said, “The recent incident here in Westfield . . . has spurred our resolve to address the issue of gun violence.”
Although New Jersey already has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, Governor Murphy, mayors, and legislators hope to enact a more comprehensive approach to gun violence prevention. The timing couldn’t be more important. According to data from the US Naval Postgraduate School, 2018 saw the highest number of school gun violence incidents since 1970 — which is when this data first started being collected.
However Governor Murphy and New Jersey legislators proceed, it’s clear that an innovative approach to gun violence is needed. In order to get ahead of the gun violence plaguing the country — and schools specifically — decision-makers need to consider how smarter gun legislation and advanced school security systems can work together to keep schools safe.
As the incident in Westfield demonstrates, the most effective way to handle the threat of gun violence on school grounds is to provide law enforcement with the information they need to act quickly. However, ensuring that the pertinent information gets into the right hands as soon as possible is a considerable challenge — especially considering the urgency of these crises and the difficulty of coordinating with those in danger.
To this end, stakeholders should consider how they can invest in on-the-ground school security systems that are specifically designed for active shooter scenarios. These systems should be within reach of educators and administrators, capable of collecting key details about active shooters, and able to distribute information to law enforcement, first responders, and school personnel.
To support the next generation of school security systems, decision-makers should turn to emerging technologies with the capacity to handle these needs. For example, IoT-enabled security platforms can provide law enforcement and first responders with the real-time information they need to neutralize threats, save lives, and care for victims. In fact, school districts across the country are already deploying these platforms in their schools, such as the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Texas.
As school gun violence threatens students and faculty across the country, it’s clear that advanced, on-the-ground security systems are a necessity. But despite tragedies from Sandy Hook to Parkland devastating the nation, the number of states requiring school security systems is shockingly low.
Indeed, only four states require electronic surveillance on school grounds and only five mandate panic or emergency notification systems. Seven states require two-way communication and exterior access controls for every room; six states require interior access controls. While individual school districts may mandate additional security measures on their campuses, these statistics suggest that many schools are ill-prepared to meet the rising tide of gun violence.
To actively work against gun violence, legislators should require that schools invest in advanced security capabilities. While security platforms will need to be designed to meet the unique needs of each school or district, it’s essential that state officials mandate security systems that empower law enforcement to act as quickly and effectively as possible.
As New Jersey and other state legislators prepare to enact more comprehensive gun control laws, it’s crucial that schools move quickly to put the right safety measures in place. While it’s important for state governments to implement common-sense gun reform policies in their communities, it’s clear that districts can’t afford to wait.
For schools looking to invest in protecting students, faculty, and staff by helping law enforcement and first responders act decisively, consider partnering with Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI). With decades of experience in physical security, TTI can help you build a comprehensive security system to suit your needs. The TTI Guardian duress alarm alerts security teams to the whereabouts of active shooters to counter threats and save lives, all with a wireless design for easy installation. Coupled with an Avigilon high-definition surveillance system to seamlessly manage an array of HD cameras, you can easily access video playback to observe scene changes, missing objects, and events. By employing both proactive and reactive security measures with TTI, you can create a safe school environment in which there is no room for gun violence.
Please, rotate your device