Applying Business Focus to Government Security
Jim Frankild sought out technology to improve his situational awareness. Timothy Phelps wanted security video for judge-pleasing evidence. Wes Hill created a unique metropolitan area network. J.B. Van Hollen rolled out a crime alerting system. In Chicago, at the NATO Summit earlier this year, one of the world’s most sophisticated integrated security systems bridged myriad transportation, school, street and even home cameras to safety contain protesters. And Bryant Garrett finally turned in his VCRs for state-of-art technology. Then there is Ken Deck, who had to concentrate on protecting a vulnerable perimeter.
It’s obvious that these enterprise security leaders have a fine focus on the business with a keen eye for return on investment. What’s less obvious: These are government applications, spotlighting the ability of professionals in local, state and federal government agencies – often with the help of their integrators – to meet particular publicly-sponsored challenges, especially in an era of very tight budgets.
Law Enforcement and Liability
The Police Department of Monroe, New York, is a fully staffed law enforcement agency in close proximity to the metropolitan New York City area. Like most police departments today, Monroe has potential vulnerability to accusations of unwarranted or excessive force, officer misconduct or lack of accountability from inmates held in the building’s jail, as Detective Jim Frankild knows.
Although these types of claims have been rare, the chief of police and the town council still believed it would be wise to take steps to protect the police department from liability claims. It was agreed that the installation of a video surveillance system would achieve this objective. The challenge was to find the best technology to meet current and future needs. Issues such as return on investment, image quality, greater functionality and lower overall system costs were priorities, but most important was the technology’s capability to capture essential images and information as opposed to simply delivering raw video.
The department selected a megapixel video surveillance solution to fulfill its objectives. Installation of the Arecont Vision cameras has given the officers peace of mind, according to Frankild. “The high quality video enables us to analyze and verify any suspicious activity as well as support improved situational awareness.”
The police department is housed in a freestanding building with open space on both sides, a front entrance with limited access that abuts the sidewalk, a back parking lot and entrance. The wide panoramic field of view eliminates the need for additional cameras and pan/tilt/zoom units. And the cameras automatically switch from color to black and white in the evening.
For internal surveillance coverage, megapixel cameras were installed in the hallways and in the cell areas. A day/night feature ensures superior images from the cell area when overhead lights are turned down at night.
Because fewer cameras were needed, installation costs dropped with less labor, less wiring and because the cameras are powered over the network (PoE), no external power was required.
Making Evidence Stick
Criminal justice facilities, including those at a county level, employ security technology with a better ability to bring evidence to court, when needed. That is the aim of Captain Timothy Phelps.
For example, the Shawnee County Department of Corrections (SNDOC) in Topeka, Kansas, now uses a high-definition surveillance system (software, hardware and cameras from Avigilon, and some Panasonic dome cameras with audio recording) for myriad needs as well as integration with door access.
Covered are housing modules, secure hallways, the main parking lot and entrances, with SNDOC personnel monitoring the system and storing 30 days of continuous surveillance video on network video recorders. Similar to the Monroe Police application, Shawnee can now resolve incidents faster and more accurately than before, dramatically enhancing inmate and staff safety, improving inmate conduct and boosting staff productivity.
It has also tripled the number of cases it has been able to send to the District Attorney’s Office, all of which have led to successful prosecution. “We were suffering from a lack of hard evidence,” says Phelps. In the past, “we would spend hours trying to track down events that should have been easily identified, but because we didn’t have a reliable and functional system of recording and searching, our investigations were at best crippled and in most instances utterly worthless.”
Uniquely, the surveillance system also integrates into the department’s electronic security system that controls access at secure entrances for those who do not have access control cards. “If an individual pushes a button to request access to our building, the electronic security system instantly connects to the Avigilon system so that staff can grant or deny access based on proper identification,” adds Captain Phelps, who says that the real value of the solution is in its software. In addition, “the ability to capture all license plates was a key requirement for us,” he says.
First Responders Create Umbrella Video Net
Wes Hill, the county’s emergency services director, the Beaver County 911 Center, located about 10 miles from the Pittsburgh International Airport, opened in early 2010 as one of the most advanced facilities of its kind and needed unique networked technology.
“One of the big things we’re seeing right now, since this building has been in operation, is the ability to plug into other camera systems – not only with our systems here but reaching out to other sites,” says Hill. “It’s one step above regular security because ours is more advanced where we can plug into other systems too.”
Hill says the 911 center’s video security platform from Pelco Digital Sentry has already proved to be helpful with the ability to keep an eye on areas around the county, letting emergency personnel to watch events and advise first responders. “The system has allowed us to reach out a lot farther than just inside our operation,” he says.
The compatibility allows emergency personnel to access camera systems at other sites, such as bridges, schools, colleges, malls and apartment complexes through its internal cable TV system. “This capability not only allowed the 911 center to use the camera technology providing the best match to its functional requirements within the center, but also allows sites throughout the county to choose a compatible platform type meeting their functional and budgetary requirements. With the capability of plugging into other systems, that’s going to be the thing of the future,” Hill comments.
The Future Is Here
“It will be the way of the future for 911 centers, not to be monitoring, but if there’s an incident, to get information for responders.” When asked about the biggest challenge, Hill points out, “We are still building out. There are so many different types of cameras to consider.”
Says Ron Milsk, president of Milsk Company, an integrator for the installation, “One of the keys to this project was that we created a metropolitan area network using existing and new fiber infrastructure. The end user was able to connect multiple networked signals from various locations to a manned operations center over fiber. Once the recorders were networked together, the operations center was able to manage the video through the software.”
The 911 Center’s own surveillance needs are met using megapixel cameras for exterior views and analog cameras for interior views. The building’s access control is integrated with the video system so staff can instantly bring up video associated with any access control issue.
Integrators involved in the Beaver County project see lessons learned for all types of government and law enforcement facilities. According to Fred Brobeck, president, George M. Brobeck Co., “The true magic in integration is the creative vision as to how the systems should work together. Once the vision is fleshed out, then technologies that support the vision can be identified. Often the result is achieved by putting technologies together in innovative ways.
“In the case of the Beaver County Emergency Services Center, Wes Hill and his team had a very definite concept in mind. The physical layout of the center and the use of video, both of which flowed from that concept, are part of what make the center so exceptional.”
From Analog to IP
There is also the challenge of migrating from analog to IP digital security video. Brobeck points out that “sooner or later, frustration with pixelization in analog images leads to consideration of a digital solution. One of the key factors is making sure that processing horsepower is kept ahead of the camera load, and that network switches and configuration are selected and optimized for use with digital video.” He concedes, “Existing integrations that use the analog systems have to be ported to the IP platform or otherwise provided for.”
As compared to more typical enterprises, government and law enforcement are ahead of the curve when it comes to integrating disparate security video but face many obstacles.
Brobeck agrees. “Perhaps the most significant challenge in integrating various locations involves the reality that varying locations are likely to have various video management systems. Some of these are likely to support integration more easily than others from a technology and networking standpoint. But even more significant is the practical reality that the viewing locations need to have a client for each video system, or an ‘umbrella’ client that can speak to all of the underlying clients.
Integration with Cable TV
“In the case of an integration such as Beaver County, where the video is fed onto a cable television system, each video system client needs not only a hardware platform for each client software, but also a cable channel (including modulation, combiner capacity and frequency bandwidth) for each client. Therefore, the fewer the number of video management systems involved, the better. The obvious implication is to attempt to standardize on video platforms to the extent that it is possible to do so.”
Situational awareness is another outcome of systems used by government and law enforcement, including the Beaver County design.
According to Milsk, “The most important lesson we have learned about this project is that the capability of a networked surveillance system allows the county to have a better grasp of emergency situations. The system gives the responders the opportunity to be better equipped to deal with the incident. In turn, this gives the community a better quality of life.”
The county design also contends with the mixing and migration of analog to IP digital security video, a challenge shared by many government operations. Milsk’s advice: “When it’s time for the end user to go IP, use the existing infrastructure where you can. However, be cognitive of the demand of an IP streaming video network.” A robust network design creates a successful installation and a happy end user and a safer community.
Getting the Word Out on Crime
Several states such as Wisconsin and local law enforcement agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., now communicate to businesses about crimes committed in their neighborhood. It’s a proud achievement of Wisconsin Attorney General J.S. Van Hollen.
When a crime is reported in a specific area, the alerting system enables law enforcement officers to send real-time information via email, text message, fax, pager and voice call to registered users. The system then alerts them that a crime has been committed and provides them with a description of the alleged perpetrator. The type of crime alerts businesses can receive include information about robberies, assaults, shoplifting, missing persons, auto theft and violent crimes.
Last year, the Wisconsin Department of Justice launched the Wisconsin Crime Alert Network (powered by Cooper Notification’s Roam Secure Alert Network for Crime Alerting Systems), which partners local law enforcement with residents and business. It enables hundreds of trained officers to send alerts via email, text or fax to subscribers. Alerts can be sent quickly based on location or can be targeted to groups from more than 50 categories, such as pharmacies or convenience stores. Officers can choose to issue those alerts to specific, affected groups across the county, a multi-county region or statewide.
“Time is critical in any criminal investigation, and with this new system we’re giving local law enforcement another resource to protect their communities by sharing appropriate information with local businesses and residents, all of whom have a stake in building a better, safer community for their families,” Van Hollen says.
In Washington, DC Police Alert is part of their citizen warning system, Alert DC, which communicates real-time emergency information to first responders and the public.
Airport Incident Response Times
At Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), as Bryant Garrett, CFO and chief of the Sanford Airport Police Department, knows, response time to incidents is crucial for effective decision making and for ensuring the safety of personnel and visitors. Although SFB did employ an older commercial-grade analog video system, it did not have the functionality or the capacity to properly archive video recordings with its VCR technology. Similarly, there was no way of verifying that live camera video feeds were actually being recorded as anticipated, and maneuvering among and extracting archived video was not an easy or quick process.
It was time for a change.
With years of experience in airport security and knowledge on the existing system, Garrett had simple requirements. First, he wanted a system that would be integrative, scalable and flexible. With these features, not only would they be able to capitalize on existing hardware investments and grow into future needs, but according to Garrett, “a non-proprietary system would allow [SFB] to get competitive bids from multiple hardware vendors.” Additionally, he wanted to be able to have a multiple camera screen presentation and the functionality to manipulate PTZ cameras. Most importantly, he wanted to be able to quickly switch from live to archived videos and easily export selections of archived videos in high-quality format for other authorities to review from another monitoring station.
He chose an advanced IP security surveillance system. SFB decided to begin its analog-to-digital security conversion with the 150 cameras that were already in place, and added another 80 cameras that were positioned throughout the premises. Using existing fiber optic cable, the integrator, SiteSecure, built a dedicated IP video network.
An intuitive drag-and-drop user interface proved popular with SFB’s personnel. “The user interface was one of my favorite features,” says Garrett. “For example, changing names of the cameras is as easy as changing the name of a Microsoft Word document.” Another one of Garrett’s preferred features was the video bookmarking. With this unique function, SFB is able to flag a specific selection of video by a simple click of the mouse, which then stores the video instance in an accessible folder. Once ready, staff can go back to the flagged bookmark to review the video content in question.
Protecting the Water
Educating its community about the importance of its water supply is important; so is protecting that supply and the assets that ensure it, according to Ken Deck, the district’s general manager.
In California, the Rowland Water District supports students at six area elementary schools who are learning about everything from the basic properties of water to the complex levies and pumping systems that bring water from hundreds of miles away into their homes.
“Teaching people the intricacies of how we get safe, clean water from hundreds of miles away to their tap is important,” says Deck.
Using security technology, Deck also is teaching intruders to stay away from his facilities. “We had an issue with people cutting through the fence and needed to verify if someone is in the yard. Analytics with perimeter trip lines can best detect if a person is where he or she should not be.” He uses video analytics as a perimeter protection solution from Honeywell to combat copper and fuel thefts at their main vehicle yard thanks to the cost-effectiveness of integrating it with an existing security system, as opposed to installing a completely new system.
Deck feels the extra layer of protection goes further than just video surveillance.
Cities Build Metro Area Networks
Ranging from Lancaster, Penn., to the City of Chicago, municipalities are linking together city, school, transit, corporate and even residential cameras into metropolitan area networks.
One of the biggest is in Chicago under the operation of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) to manage incidents, coordinate events, operate communications systems and provide technology, among other forms of support, to city services to strengthen their respective missions and to protect lives and property in the City of Chicago.
One aspect of Chicago’s video integration effort protects Navy Pier, Illinois’ top tourist attraction.
Going back four years, the Navy Pier project at its heart is a network of cameras from IBM business partner Axis Communications and a video recording and monitoring system from Genetec. The first phase of the project integrates cameras, alarms, sensors, audio and analytics. The camera coverage extends visibility along the perimeter of the Pier and its entrance and departure points. Strategically placed emergency call buttons are integrated with the video system and when activated will stream video and audio content to the Pier’s new command center.
While public view cameras and networking have been accepted by citizens as an effort to cut crime and tamp down terror threats, other uses of cameras by cities have been under attack. Some cities use so-called red light cameras to identify and fine drivers who go through red lights without stopping and emerging are cameras that identify speeders in school and highway construction zones.
Voice over IP Pearl in this Oyster
Then there is Justin McCaffrey, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. Jumping on the IP bandwagon, his Town of Oyster Bay, part of the New York metropolitan area, has proactively installed Voice over IP emergency phones from Talk-A-Phone throughout the town’s recreational areas, which include over 2,000 acres of parks, beaches, golf courses, marinas, garages, community centers, train stations, municipal buildings and storage yards. The Town Supervisor, John Venditto, has made safety and security a priority.
“Our recreational facilities are very busy with thousands of people using them daily,” says McCaffrey. “We feel that the call boxes are an efficient, quick way to summon assistance. We also feel the call boxes provide a reassuring comfort level and act as a deterrent of crime.”
The town had been using analog emergency phones. But when the mandate came and the infrastructure was ready to support the VoIP technology, it was time to upgrade the emergency communications equipment. As an added benefit, the city was now able to use s mass notification solution.
As part of the project, the vendor designed an emergency phone tower that can accommodate two security cameras on a T-shaped camera arm. Using those cameras on the same tower opens up unique video surveillance options and widens the operator’s view of the surroundings.
This article was originally published in print as "Business Focused, But It’s Government Security."
Working for the Landlord, When It’s Government
We all are just tenants, and shortly the great landlord will give us notice that our lease has expired.
But before that happens and when it comes to local, state and federal government, their enterprise security leaders and system integrators who work with them no doubt share typical security and life safety landlord missions but also must contend with ever-evolving rules, regulations and requirements that vary by geography, agency, homeland security and myriad other needs.
Excluding schools and state colleges, there exists a vast number of agencies, military, law enforcement and contractor sites and employees.
The government landlord is, vastly, the largest owner of real estate in the United States and its biggest employer.
Concerning properties, while no one knows for sure, it is estimated that the federal government owns, leases or manages more than 900,000 buildings or other structures across the country while local and state governments own, lease or manage another 380,000 or so properties.
Easier to count, ironically, are government and contractor employees.
As of mid-2012, there were about 21,900,000 government employees and about 14,000,000 government contractors out of a total U.S. workforce of 134,000,000 nonfarm workers. Not all contractor employees, by the way, are directly employed on government projects.