Missouri is known as the “Show Me State” and a unique public-private partnership there is showing the rest of the country the power of collaboration where it comes to safeguarding citizens.
There in its largest city integrator Will Electronics has been enlisted by a municipal organization within St. Louis known as the Central West End Neighborhood Security Initiative (NSI) to deploy and maintain an extensive video surveillance system.
The dramatic success of this undertaking is cutting area crime, helping people feel safer and encouraging other communities to adopt similar models.
Formed in 2007 with three full-time staffers and sponsored by six Special Business Districts along with Washington University Medical Center, the NSI works in cooperation with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, security companies, residents and businesses to unify prevention efforts and respond more efficiently to crime as a community.
Named by the American Planning Association as one of America’s Top 10 Neighborhoods, the Central West End features a mix of residential and commercial properties that include fine dining, entertainment, shopping, nightlife and some of St. Louis’ oldest shops and unique attractions like the World Chess Hall of Fame.
Since its inception, the NSI has excelled in bringing accountability to its supplemental bicycle patrols and has adopted the latest security tools and strategies.
In addition to proactive crime prevention patrols and equipment, the NSI has taken advantage of effective communication with law enforcement and prosecution. NSI also works to educate and empower the Central West End community.
Multiple Panasonic IP cameras were deployed across all 17 locations, with Genetec SV16 server-style units placed locally to ensure recording continues should the headend Internet connection go down.
A couple of years ago, the organization decided it was time to undertake a massive upgrade of its modest and antiquated video surveillance system, and longtime local security leader Will Electronics was engaged.
Founded in 1955 as Carl Will TV, the company developed into a sophisticated commercial security integrator that today delivers primarily video and access control solutions to some 400 clients.
Brothers Kurt and Carl H. Will acquired the business from their father in 1986, with Carl serving as president until 2009 when Kurt assumed that role (Carl is now treasurer). Today, the firm handles all system design, engineering and installation inhouse, and contracts with Emergency24 for its nearly 70 monitored accounts.
Although there were already talks in motion about improving the area’s surveillance system, as is unfortunately so often the case to ultimately spur action, a lightning rod-type incident occurred to really move upgrading to the front burner.
In the summer of 2012, it sparked outrage when a young college graduate was murdered in the Central West End in broad daylight.
Thus engineering and consulting firm KJWW was hired to help design the camera system and vet local competitors, of which Will Electronics was selected.
To find out how this project coalesced and blossomed into an inspiring story of what can be accomplished when a security integrator partners with its community, SSI interviewed Kurt Will and Project Manager Darrell Buffington and their customer, NSI Executive Director Jim Whyte.
Read on to find out more about the $300,000 Genetec-managed network of more than 70 primarily Panasonic IP cameras, as well as project coordination, technology and results.
Tell me about the Central West End, its dynamics and safety concerns.
JIM WHYTE: We are an urban core neighborhood comprised of a variety of demographics. A portion of our neighborhood is very wealthy and affluent. We’re also home to several large institutions within or on the border of the Central West End.
We have St. Louis University, which is a college of about 28,000 students. We also have Washington University Medical Center, Washington University Danforth campus and St. Louis College of Pharmacy.
We’re also home to a high concentration of social services and in close proximity to neighborhoods with some of the highest violent crime rates in our region.
Oftentimes that violent crime migrates, but generally we deal with property crimes. Theft from motor vehicles, theft from garages, those kinds of things, but we also experience street robberies and even homicides.
We had 80 armed robberies last year and a large number of stolen autos and larcenies, so we have our work cut out for us. We had a legacy camera system of about 12 cameras that were located in one of our commercial areas where we have restaurants and shops.
We had limited success with those cameras as it related to types of response to crimes that have occurred in our neighborhood. Those successes led to discussion with my board about expanding the camera footprint to cover a larger area.
How did Will Electronics get involved?
KURT WILL: We talked to Jim over the years a couple of different times. We worked very closely with the engineering firm that did the design, the engineer in particular as we had worked with him on some other projects.
Jim is a retired St. Louis police officer and we worked very closely with the city’s PD on various projects. So we had some exposure there. Then ultimately when the project was designed by the engineering firm, it was put out to bid and around eight bidders initially participated.
We also had worked, based upon our relationship with the city’s police department, in promoting Genetec’s [video management system] platform, which is at the heart of the Central West End solution. It’s also the platform that the city of St. Louis has standardized on for its real-time crime center.
We’re one of probably two or three local companies that handle Genetec. The request for proposal process was pretty straightforward, went pretty quickly. KJWW did a fine job engineering the design work. Once the contract was awarded, there were delays in negotiating some of the lease agreements.
None of the buildings are owned by the NSI so all these cameras had to be installed on private buildings, each one requiring signed individual lease agreements.
WHYTE: To help keep costs down, we engaged commercial property owners, people who own storefronts or apartment buildings at key locations throughout our neighborhood. We asked if we could put cameras and some of our equipment in their buildings.
Every commercial property owner we engaged was very receptive to the idea. It was remarkable. I thought people would balk at having cameras put on their buildings and was blown away by how excited people were. It’s been a great relationship with our property owners.
Read on to find out the public’s reaction to the cameras and specifics on the system
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