Protecting Public Schools
Puerto Rico Department of Education concerned about increased intrusion and robberies
- By Barbara Rizzatti
- February 01, 2021
Puerto Rico protects more than 850
public schools with the help of Milestone
The Commonwealth of Puerto
Rico needed to implement a centralized
and effcient perimeter security system
for all public schools on the island. Intrusions
and assaults at educational institutions
have increased, and Hurricane Maria further
exacerbated problems with the destruction
The need to repair hurricane damage also
provided opportunities to invest in modern
improvements. The Department of Education
chose to install a video surveillance system
with more than 10,000 cameras, speakers
and other security devices in 856 schools.
In the same way, a centralized control center
was established using the corporate version
of Milestone Systems XProtect® VMS.
Ensuring a safe environment is a growing
challenge for schools and colleges today:
theft, fights and bullying are some of the
problems that not only affect students, but
also teachers, employees and, ultimately, the
government entities that subsidize the educational
In Puerto Rico, for example, the Department
of Education was concerned about the
increase in unauthorized intrusions, robberies
and assaults within its schools. This index
shot up after Hurricane Maria destroyed
much of the island's infrastructure in 2017.
Even before this natural phenomenon,
there was no centralized security system that
integrated an overview of all schools. There
were disparate installations of video surveillance
equipment (cameras, alarms and lighting)
but only in approximately 250 of the
schools. After the hurricane, instead of investing
in the repair and purchase of separate systems,
top priority was given to providing
perimeter security for all schools through an
effective centralized command center.
“The hurricane damaged the island's communication
and lighting systems, a circumstance that promoted intrusions into schools,
and subsequently increased vandalism. We
had no visibility of what was happening and
we could not find a way to avoid these escalations,”
said César González Cordero, Security
Commissioner for the Puerto Rico
Department of Education. “However, we
could not afford to buy and repair equipment
individually for all schools, so a centralized
and coordinated effort was necessary.”
Based on this context, González said, the
proposal was born to begin the process to
acquire a video surveillance system for public
schools in Puerto Rico, focused on perimeter
Perimeter Security for all Schools
Genesis Security Services, Inc. of Puerto
Rico was selected to develop the perimeter
security project for the 856 public schools on
the island. This Puerto Rican corporation
was founded in 1997 in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico
by brothers, Roberto and Emilio Morales,
who are leaders in security services at the
“We have been providing security to the Department of Education for more than 15
years through our onsite guard service. That
is why we knew the design, location, assets
and vulnerabilities of various educational
establishments. This was a great advantage
when executing the project,” said Yasel
Morales, technology director at Genesis.
In October 2018, the installation of cameras
and other devices began in all schools.
The video system mission control was built
inside the Genesis Central Station, located in
the municipality of Carolina (in the northeast
region of the island). Video data from all
schools is returned to Central Station, where
it is managed with the Milestone Systems
XProtect Corporate open platform VMS.
Leveraging the power of the open platform,
Milestone XProtect VMS supports more than
8,500 security and surveillance devices, and
more than 450 software integrations from
more than 3,500 technology partners. Alliance
partners include providers of network
video cameras, cloud solutions, DVRs and
NVRs, servers and storage equipment, alarm
and detection systems, video analytics, GPS
technology, laser and radar scanners, boxes of
emergency calls and more.
“At the Central Station we have fifteen
workstations, with the same number of operators
per shift. There we have a videowall of
ten monitors distributed between the stations.
Likewise, we have two dispatch centers
that serve as backup: one in the municipality
of Yauco and the other in the municipality of
San Juan,” Morales said.
As part of the project, approximately
10,000 Uniview DH-Vision 4-megapixel
cameras were installed in 856 schools (an
average of 12 cameras per campus). Audio
speakers from Axis Communications and a
range of Optex sensors also were integrated.
The combination of these technologies made
it possible for every school to have an antiintrusions
system with their own alerts feeding
back to the Central Station.
Each campus has a Seneca brand server
with the XProtect Express+ software
installed. This communicates with the corporate
version at the Central Station through
Milestone Interconnect™, a licensing platform
that opens a communication channel
between different hardware that normally
cannot communicate with each other.
Milestone Interconnect connects remote
sites for a low-cost video surveillance solution.
It is the ideal surveillance for a wide
variety of industries that want an inexpensive
way to get centralized supervision of
multiple locations spread across one region.
With Milestone Interconnect, engineers
and managers can easily monitor critical and
remote areas from one central location. This
means faster intrusion management because
operators in the central system can access the
video and receive alarms from remote connected
sites. This reduces the need to have
local security staff, maintenance, operation
and other costs, including visits onsite.
Genesis created virtual gates using cameras
that, in addition to protecting school
spaces, also ensure the safety of substations
and solar panels, which are considered
important assets for institutions. If someone
crosses the virtual gate, an alert is generated
locally and passed to the Central Station
through Interconnect. Operators then make
a visual confirmation and, if applicable, the
emergency protocol is activated.
“The emergency protocol is to contact the
Security Commissioner and the Department
of Operations. For this liaison, we internally
designate an inspector. Once informed, they
activate the security officers at the sites, who
are trained to give quick responses and
inform the police,” said Morales.
Thanks to the management software,
Genesis can easily find any recording of the
schools and send it to the Security Commissioner,
who can also receive the alerts directly
through an application on his mobile
phone. It should be noted that all personnel
handling the system, both operators and
technicians, have Milestone Systems certifications,
which they obtained on the manufacturer's
website. González explained that
the directors and residents of the schools
may contact the Central Station if they wish
to report any suspicious activity within a
school after regular hours.
“If for any reason a school principal
requires a recording, he must contact us, and
we request the information from the Genesis
operations center. This protocol is designed
to respect the right to be in a place without
feeling guarded at all times, as stipulated in
the public policy of Puerto Rico. In total, this
system directly benefits almost 400,000 people,”
Increased Security at a Lower Cost
According to the Security Commissioner,
since the first camera was installed, they
went from two or three intrusions per day to
one or zero. Even in October 2018, they had
no record of intrusions. Genesis Security
Services, Inc. confirmed that since the system
has been operational, there has been a
97% reduction in school intrusions.
Video technology has helped dispel problems
such as theft of property by employees
and, more importantly, has helped reduce
rates of physical assault and bullying among
students. These results have helped build
trust among Puerto Rican families when
they enroll their children in schools.
“The system provides agility and precision.
It is more efficient and immediate than
communicating with a guard who has to
enter a facility to verify what is happening.
It's great working with a system that has visibility
24/7 in schools,” González said.
On the other hand, thanks to this project
it was possible to reduce the cost of security
in schools using technology, one of the main
objectives of the Department of Education at
“We spent about $25 million annually covering
just 250 schools with the guard system,
and we had almost 600 schools left unattended.
This project gave us the possibility of covering
100% of the public schools in Puerto
Rico with the same budget,” González said.
Finally, it is important to note that many of
these schools are located in vulnerable places
on the island, so the system is also helping the
Police and the Prosecutor's Office to resolve
cases that occurred around the educational
facilities, and in general to contribute with the
welfare of the community.
On behalf of the Department of Education,
the Puerto Rican Government is seeking
ways to integrate this type of video analytics
system with software programs and databases
of organizations who advocate for sexual
“In the future we want to have a system
that is capable of identifying if a sex offender
crosses the perimeter in school zones so that
we can warn in time,” said González.
On the Genesis side, Morales said that the
next step with this project will be to start
developing video analytics for the VMS, not
only to give perimeter security but also statistics
such as counting people and vehicles.
They also plan on integrating access control
systems into all schools.
This article originally appeared in the January February 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.