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Argus High School upgraded its video surveillance system recently in an attempt to reduce crime and make the campus safer.

When trash was being left on campus during lunchtime this past school year, Principal George Sziraki reviewed footage to identify the culprits.

The Ceres Police Department reviewed footage when a vehicle was vandalized during school hours.

"It's night and day," said George Sziraki, principal. "This one allows you to store data on a server for up to two weeks. It's got all the technical features. The older camera system was very limited. It used VCR tapes."

Ceres Unified used a site-block grant to pay for the update. It paid for $17,000 installation and equipment.

Purchased from Solid Networks in Modesto, the Internet Protocol (IP) surveillance system captures and saves live video from six Axis digital cameras positioned around campus. The data is recorded to servers in two locations in the district.

"We're really happy with it (new surveillance system) and the flexibility of where you locate them (cameras)," said Carey Brock, coordinator of technology and media for CUSD. "They're very inexpensive to install. The software is easy, intuitive and bulletproof. The video is very high quality and you can zoom in and identify anything. It's extremely cost-effective compared to the old days when people ran tape. Tapes are so unreliable."

"It (new surveillance system) covers probably about 80 to 90 percent of the campus and the surrounding area," Sziraki said.

Added Brock: "The cameras are not a mystery. We did not try to hide them. We put them in locations where you can see (quad, entrances and parking lots)."

Using a lap-top computer and Milestone software, Sziraki provided a demonstration at his office on July 25. He reviewed a feed that showed a Courier report walking by a row of portables and toward the front of the school.

"It's nice," George said. "We like it."

Central Valley High School has a similar surveillance system installed on its campus but with more cameras (27 total).

"We were having a real issue with theft in the lunch line," said Fred Van Vleck, principal. "It was getting to the point where we were losing $50 to $150 of food per day. We put a camera up and it reduced it next to nothing."

Ceres High will start adding IP cameras in the near future. Software and Power Over Ethernet (POE) switches have already been ordered.

"Ceres qualified for $149,000 worth of discounts," Brock said. "We applied for it two years ago."

It will be money well spent.

"The great thing about it is it creates a safe school," Sziraki said. "It's a deterrent. The kids know they're being videotaped."