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FALLSBURG, NY — According to a new survey by the American Psychological Association and the Harris Poll, a third of adults in the U.S. are so stressed by mass shootings that they avoid attending certain events, and about a quarter say they have made changes in their lives because of the threat of mass shootings.
As shootings continue in schools and other public places, schools are taking precautions. In The River Reporter’s seven questions most superintendents reported that their districts are coming up with ways to secure buildings, including installing secured buzz-in systems, like a fairly new addition at Honesdale High School, and the hiring of security enforcement officers.
Meanwhile, companies are also coming up with various methods to try to prevent violence before it happens. One such company is Rekor Systems which has been working with the Town of Fallsburg and the Fallsburg Central School District (FCSD) on two different programs that would enhance safety in the town and at the school.
One of the programs is called FIRSTsight. Riaz Latifullah, executive vice president of Rekor, explained the program in a phone interview. He said the company geo-fences a school or defines the area and, “within a certain radius of that school, we can look for in public social media phrases or words of concern or statements that might identify someone who displays what we call behavior of concern.” Steve Vegliante, supervisor of the Town of Fallsburg, said the determination of the area to be geo-fenced has not been finalized yet, but it may be a town-wide effort.
The program that scans all of those pubic social media posts makes use of artificial intelligence and can also look at pictures. Once the program makes a match to either a selected phrase or other information programmed into it, it alerts a person who will determine whether the issue is serious or not.
This method of trying to detect violent incidents before they happen is called a threat-assessment model, and was developed in part by the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC). In 2018, NTAC issued a report called Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Mode.
“Rather than focusing solely on a student’s personality traits or school performance, we can learn much more about a student’s risk for violence by working through the threat assessment process,” the report reads, “which is designed to gather the most relevant information about the student’s communications and behaviors, the negative or stressful events the student has experienced and the resources the student possesses to overcome those setbacks and challenges.”
Another safety program that Rekor offers reports drivers who pass stopped school buses with the stop-arm extended and lights flashing, which is illegal everywhere in the U.S.
The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services of 108,623 school bus drivers asking them how many vehicles illegally passed their buses in a single day of 2018. Drivers reported a total 83,944 vehicles making the illegal move.
Rekor’s program places three cameras on a bar on the side of the bus. Two of the cameras come with automatic license-plate-reader technology that can also read the make, model and color of the vehicle. If a vehicle appears to violate a bus-passing regulation, the software automatically generates a report and sends it to a law enforcement agency. Latifullah said five FCSD buses will be outfitted with the cameras in October. Vegliante said that the town is involved in the program, and that relevant information that would be generated could be sent to the Fallsburg Police Department.