School Security Expert Tip – Plain View Vehicle Checks Can Help Prevent School Weapons Attacks

School Security Expert Tip by Michael Dorn

A simple strategy to help reduce the number of weapons on school property was developed in the Bibb County Public School System Police Department more than twenty years ago. The concept is now widely used due to a school safety training video funded by the Garrett Metal Detector Company in the late 1990s.  Tens of thousands of copies of this video have been distributed in all fifty states and more than thirty countries since its release.

The concept demonstrated in the video is known as the plain view vehicle check.  This simple strategy involves law enforcement officers, security officers or properly trained school employees walking through student parking areas and looking for weapons from outside the vehicle.  When I first began teaching this technique at national conferences in the mid 1990’s it was well-received and many school districts began to utilize the approach. 

As there have been a number of instances of students retrieving weapons from parked cars before using them to attack others, weapons in student vehicles can become a serious issue very quickly. It is sometimes surprising how many weapons can be found in this manner.  The first time we checked a student parking lot at Central High School in my district, we recovered two rifles and more than a dozen knives and other weapons.    One of the rifles recovered was a semi-automatic version of the AK-47 rifle.

The plain view vehicle check is an inexpensive approach requiring little staff time to implement and maintain.


About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.