Shoring Up The Waterside
The Waterside Festival Marketplace, locally known as The Waterside, has proved to be a magnet for new hotels, office buildings and tourist attractions. Soon after The Waterside opened in 1983, downtown Norfolk became clean, attractive and is still booming even today.
The Waterside, located at the mouth of the Elizabeth River, encompasses numerous specialty retail stores, an international food court, plus several sit-down restaurants and night clubs under one roof, and has become a major day-to-night draw both for tourists and residents. The surrounding area offers daily boat cruises and ferries at the adjacent waterfront. The location is served by public transit, and covered parking is available in several nearby garages.
SYSTEM DECISIONSWhen it came time to consider upgrading the physical security at The Waterside, general manager Lane Brown decided to add to their existing infrastructure by choosing digital video. “For us, it was a question of cost vs. value,” said Brown. “We had looked through references and found good reviews on the Internet as well. Also, Steve Wilkins, who is the operations manager here, and I have both had experience with Panasonic Security Systems at Military Circle, a one-million square foot shopping center in Norfolk.”
The previously existing system at The Waterside included 16 cameras that fed into a DVR and another seven cameras that were connected to an older VCR. Working with Tri-Tronics Ltd., a video surveillance, electronic security and audio communications specialist based in Virginia, Brown added two new DVRs with 16 channels and six additional vandal-proof day/night color dome cameras to the system. “We added cameras and put some outside and into other locations in the mall that needed more coverage,” said Brown.
“One area within the mall that needs the most surveillance would be the food court,” said Brown. “During the week we sometimes have entertainment, and that location draws a much larger crowd. On the weekends we have a late-night crowd, so it’s important to monitor the door adjacent to the crosswalk where it crosses over Waterside Drive. The crowds disperse at 2:00 in the morning.” In addition, Brown noted that with multiple tenants bringing waste to the dumpsters, it can be useful to review surveillance data when garbage is found all over the loading dock in the morning. “We can go right over and see who did it.”
ENSURING A WATCHFUL EYEAt The Waterside, surveillance data is archived and monitored in real-time when warranted. “We have an in-house security staff of 11 and there is somebody here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The building is locked down between 2:00 am and 7:00 am, when the cleaning crew comes in,” said Brown.
“We can easily access the recorded video directly from the DVRs or through the matrix switcher and often use the video surveillance system to review incidents after the fact. We can go back in time and review any and all cameras to see where an incident started and how it followed through. This has been useful countless times to verify what actually happened.
“For example, there was one incident in which someone was injured, and the story we were given turned out to be very inaccurate,” said Brown. “The parents [of those involved] were very much up in arms and were prepared to start causing all kinds of legal problems. But when we watched the recorded footage, we got a completely different story on the sequence of events.
“We consult surveillance recordings obtained with our video surveillance system two or three times a week to go back and investigate something to see what really happened,” added Brown.
In addition, the video surveillance system has been a helpful tool for law enforcement officials. “We have provided information to the local police department,” said Brown. “I have had police officers come over with reports they believe to be accurate. We verify and supplement their reports by accessing the video footage of an incident and reviewing it from start to finish from different camera angles.”
In addition to cameras and DVRs, the upgraded system at The Waterside will include four new CRT monitors and one 42-inch plasma display. “The CRTs will be placed into a security/information kiosk in the food court area, to give the security officer a place to be and to serve as reinforcement to visitors that there is a surveillance function in the area for their safety and security,” said Brown.
“Tri-Tronics Ltd. has been with us for close to ten years, and we’ve seen them design some of the top systems in the area. They helped us design the system originally, but we do our own troubleshooting when there is a problem with a connection,” said Brown. “We have had essentially no problems with the equipment, which made it an easy choice when it came time to upgrade.”