MARBLEHEAD — Marblehead is one of just four communities in the state to receive a federal matching grant to enhance its security, mainly at the high school.
The $88,000 project allocates money for 23 cameras; two portable devices to test blood alcohol level; a laptop computer; and funding for programs and events through Marblehead Cares, a coalition that addresses youth substance abuse.
The cameras should be fully installed around the high school by December.
"The focus was on the high school because of all the vandalism," fire Chief Jason Gilliland said.
The approval of the grant to relieve the School Department of half of the project's costs was discussed during yesterday's meeting of the School Committee's Security Sub-Committee. Meeting documents said that during the last school year, there were $30,000 in costs from vandalism at the high school.
The School Department said it is difficult to pay for regular maintenance costs and needed security upgrades. The grant will allow them to make those improvements, according to town documents.
Three goals were outlined: Cameras will allow police to identify those involved in risky behavior, ensure that exit doors are locked, and identify criminal activity and take action.
School administrators will have "regular access" to the tapes in conjunction with a police liaison. The effectiveness of the program will be determined "in the increased ability to identify and prosecute individuals" and "by a reduction in vandalism and other illicit behaviors."
The School Department is responsible for $44,000 of the program's costs. While line items, such as the $82,500 allocated for equipment, cannot be changed, there is some flexibility around the exact items purchased, grant coordinator Karen Bourgeault said.
"(We) now have a line item in the budget to support our matching portion in the grant," Superintendent Gregory Maass said.
The grant will not just be used for prosecutorial purposes. Community policing and collaboration to prevent illicit behavior was also emphasized. According to meeting documents, the Marblehead Police Department wants to build trust with the community, which includes a "willingness to continually examine and modify policies ... to assure its mission is accomplished in a manner compatible with the best interest of the town."
A survey on risky behavior was administered in spring 2011 to Marblehead High School students, the results of which are currently being reviewed. This survey will provide a reference point for officials to judge whether illicit activity decreases after the grant money is spent.
"We are getting back data now and going through the process of getting it to Dr. Maass," said Susan Hauck of Marblehead Cares. A timetable on the release of the survey results was not mentioned.
According to meeting documents, since September 2010, the police have received 911 calls from the high school reporting six larcenies, five acts of vandalism, and 15 assaults, threats or fights.