23 Aug Florida schools employ Johnson Controls technology to stop sex predators
Milwaukee, Wis. – The nation’s fifth largest school district is being outfitted with a new security system designed by Johnson Controls, Inc., to deter sexual predators from entering school grounds.
Johnson Controls, known more for its attempts to develop hybrid car batteries and energy-efficient building systems, said the security system will come online next month, utilizing digital identification checkpoints in 250 Broward County Public Schools in Florida to help the district comply with the state’s 2005 Jessica Lunsford Act (H.B. 1877).
Jessica’s Law, as it is informally known, is intended to intensify punishments for child sex predators and reduce their ability to re-offend. The law is named after Jessica Lunsford, a nine-year-old Florida girl allegedly raped and murdered by convicted sex offender John Couey in February 2005.
Working with the district to design and implement the system, Johnson Controls produced the security tracking and response (STAR) system using Fast-Pass technology from Security Identification Systems Corp.
The system allows security personnel to quickly verify the identity of people entering the school buildings with digital identification cards, said Darryll Fortune, spokesman for Johnson Controls. The identity is then automatically checked against national, state, and local sex offender databases.
Fortune explained that although Johnson Controls has produced similar systems for other types of facilities, STAR is novel as a vehicle for helping a large cluster of buildings achieve compliance with Jessica’s Law.
A unique feature of the system is its network-wide connectivity, allowing school guards to see visitor attempts to gain access to any building and send emergency messages to any workstation on the network.
“The main goal of this solution is to prevent potentially dangerous individuals from having access to these students,” said Johnson Controls’ Steve Thompson, director of marketing for fire and security solutions, in a release. “In many cases, the idea of being identified will be enough to deter a sexual predator from making an attempt at these sites.”
Among the key provisions of the law are a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and lifetime monitoring of adults convicted of lewd or lascivious molestation against a victim less than 12 years of age.
The law also sets background screening requirements for noninstructional school district employees and contractors who are permitted access on school grounds when children are present.
Similar legislation existed or was subsequently adopted in at least 16 other states, including Wisconsin, providing a market for Johnson Controls’ security solution. The state’s Sex Offender Registry Program operates under the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.
The Florida law has also spawned a federal counterpart, delineated in H.R. 1505 of the 109th Congress. The proposed law would, among other provisions, require sex offenders who were convicted more than twice of failing to properly register as a sex offender to wear global positioning system devices on their ankles for five to 10 years.
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