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Stopping Criminals in Their Tracks

Software checks visitors’ backgrounds.

Visitor management programs and software are a growing trend in K12 schools, according to Chuck Hibbert, a national school security consultant and the retired director of security for Wayne Township Schools in Indianapolis. In some districts, schools are using additional software that checks visitors against sexual predator and/or criminal databases. One of the more popular programs is Raptorware by Raptor Technologies.

When visitors enter schools, they must present a government-issued identification card, like a driver’s license or passport, says Robert “Bob” Yatsuk, school security supervisor for Anne Arundel County Public Schools. The ID is scanned for the first and last name and date of birth against queries of sex offender lists from every state, which shows up instantly and is updated, he says. If the person is a possible match to be a sex offender, the school staff person can then compare the photo on the database to the visitor’s face and photo ID and make sure the visitor’s age and other demographics fit the profile. If the person is deemed a match, the staff member can hit a “yes” button on the computer program, which automatically notifies Yatsuk’s office and the police. Or, in an emergency, a staff member can call 911.

“It doesn’t decrease the number of sexual predators, it just helps us to know who they are,” Yatsuk says. “There are approximately 700 sex offenders in our county and we don’t know all of them.”

Hibbert echos that sentiment and says if a parent is a sexual predator, they allow that person to come to a school, if they call ahead and make an appointment, and then they can receive information only about their child. “Just because I’m a parent in your school district, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a history,” Hibbert says. If a school does decide to install such a system, Hibbert also recommends having a plan in place in case a “false positive” comes up and someone is stopped who shouldn’t be.

“It’s the reason some schools haven’t opted for checking a sexual predator registry yet,” Hibbert says. “They don’t want to deal with the possible embarrassment of having a false positive, so they take the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’” approach.

The real problem is if something does happen and a student is molested or raped. “The question then becomes why didn’t you know, why didn’t you take any precautions,” Hibbert says. “Even if a judge and jury don’t find you negligent in the court of law, you will be found negligent in the court of public perception.”

It costs approximately $1,500 per campus [school] in the first year and less than $500 in annual software maintenance after that, says Jim Vesterman, the CEO of Raptor Technologies. While there are other visitor management systems, Vesterman says they either don’t screen for sex offenders or require a manual search for each visitor by name instead of instantly pulling up a potential match in the database.