WECT Goes Undercover to Test School Security

NOVEMBER 30, 2005 -- Carrying a somewhat hidden camera and wearing a ballcap, WECT News Anchor Jim Hanchett tries to walk through an elementary school undetected, hoping a kids car seat makes him look like an average dad.

Hanchett has clearance for this from top school officials but the staffers at Holly Tree Elementary aren't supposed to know he's there.

How far will he get in this attempt to put the beefed up security at local schools to the test? It's beefed up because some schools flunked a test like this last year. This is the first time those results have been revealed.

A team of psychologists from UNC Wilmington went undercover into every New Hanover County School. Some were stopped almost immediately. Others strolled through the halls for as long as a half an hour.

The schools that had lax security were not identified, but it has local educators and law enforcement officers concerned.

"I would be concerned about those people walking through bathrooms and around high school campuses," says Lisa Brewster, director of Safe Schools.

To stop intruders in their tracks, the schools now require every visitor to sign in and wear a sticker. If a child, teacher or a custodian sees someone unfamiliar, they should be stopped and questioned.

More safety measures are in the works. A disaster drill unlike anything the school system has tried before is in the planning stages. The district is bringing in private security experts to determine where every building is vulnerable, and that undercover team from UNCW will pull more surprise visits.

Hanchett didn't get very far in his test. He was stopped by a staffer outside the library far from the kids.

If the attempt to tighten security works, intruders with far more evil intent will be turned away as well.

Reported by Jim Hanchett