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Surveillance Cameras Deter Crime Around High School Campus

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FAYETTEVILLE — There were no surveillance cameras at Cape Fear High School when two students allegedly caused more than $1 million in damage to the campus early Tuesday morning. That is about to change thanks to a pilot program at one Cumberland County high school.

AtDouglas Byrd High School,cameras are placed where school resource officers cannot always be.

"They can see what is going on around here every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Gary Dukes, a school resource officer.

The night surveillance cameras have been at the school for almost three years, and have brought quick arrests in two cases of vandalism.

When you traverse campus, you are immediately picked up by a camera," said George Ellis, executive director for high schools. "You are picked up by all angles."

"If you come in from one of the parking lots, you are picked up," Ellis said. "If you come in from the back, you are picked up. If you come in from the main drive, you are picked up."

There were no surveillance cameras set up at Cape Fear High School when two students allegedly set fire to their school Tuesday morning.

The plan to have cameras on campuses was in place before the fires at Cape Fear High School, but beginning next week, cameras will be installed in every Cumberland County high school.

System leaders hope to have all of the cameras up and running within three months.

Douglas Byrd students say other schools should not consider the cameras a distraction.

"Well, they make us feel a lot safer at school about leaving our cars out in the parking lots," said student Lara Steelman.

The cameras will not only help authorities catch illegal acts on tape, but their presence will make students think twice about their behavior.

"The presence of them is a factor that deters bad behavior," Buddy Brown, assistant principal.

The cameras have already deterred some bad behavior. Fights have decreased in the cafeteria.

Paul Payne, 16, and Michael Furmage, 17, are accused of setting Tuesday's fire and face several felony charges. During their first court appearance Thursday, they told the judge they understand the list of charges filed against them.

The students face up to 18 years in prison each.