SPECIAL SECTION: Insider Enlisted to Install Municipal CCTV System

Imagine a security installation where one of the principles of the company involved in designing and installing a particular digital video system is actually the same person who will eventually use it.

Ironic circumstances indeed, but one that actually happened in Forks County Township, located just outside Easton, Pa., when ICU Security, a local CCTV integrator, was contracted to install a state-of-the-art digital video surveillance system, including 42 networked cameras, in the township’s municipal building, police department and fire department.

“We also have full-time jobs — this is something we do on the side,” says Bob Marich, co-founder of ICU, explaining that when he is not designing sophisticated CCTV systems for clients, such as Subway and Dunkin Donuts, he is a district loss prevention manager for Weis Markets, a regional grocery chain with 157 stores across five states. “All of our customers are aware of this — we inform them up front, and we do our camera installations on our days off from our full-time jobs.”

As for Marich’s partner, Jeff Keifer, he is actually a patrolman with the Forks County Police Department and the one actually responsible for the operation and maintenance of the system while performing his duty to protect and serve local residents. So not only did he help design and install the system, Keifer is the one the township calls, while on duty, when there is a problem.

Keifer ensures the system is working according to plan and is the one asked to take advantage of all of the systems’ features, such as burning a CD with video footage for potential use in a court of law. Since Keifer is the one who chose to install the DVRs and cameras, tasks that most end users might find difficult are painlessly simple to complete.

Loss Prevention, Police Work Set Stage for Security Collaboration
Keifer’s familiarity with security equipment dates back to when he graduated high school and immediately entered the world of retail loss prevention. During his 10 years in retail, he worked directly with security providers and the equipment and technology they used. He even installed several cameras himself, including covert cameras designed to investigate suspected internal theft and fraud.

It was while working in loss prevention that Keifer met Marich and, after working together for about five years, they both realized the knowledge and experience they gained in their jobs could no doubt be used to launch a security company of their own. Thus, they decided to launch ICU Security and, in turn, help secure and protect the people and businesses of Forks County and its surrounding area.

ICU’s foray into the security industry began in 2001 when it was hired to perform several camera installations for some local merchants and homeowners. Since its inception and continuing to this day, the company does not install alarm systems but does branch out from CCTV into access control as most of its revenue comes from commercial applications, which often require both video and access control technology. Its name and reputation precedes itself and, as such, relies solely on word-of-mouth advertising to procure jobs.

Word of its quality workmanship and effectiveness of the systems it installed quickly spread through the township, leading ICU to land larger jobs, including its successful bid to install a state-of-the-art video surveillance system for three of Forks County Township’s most important facilities: its municipal building, police station and fire department.

Being an Employee, Previous Work for Client Helps Firm Win Bid
Titled the Forks Township Municipal Project, the installation began in June 2005 and took approximately 12 months to complete. Once everything was said and done, ICU installed 16 cameras inside the Forks Township police station, 13 cameras in its municipal building and 13 cameras in its fire department.

“We have control over the whole facility,” says Keifer. “If anyone comes in the building or around the facility, we capture them on video.”

Although there was a bid process for the Forks County Municipal Project, ICU had the inside track on the job from the start, primarily because of two reasons: its familiarity with the town and the fact Keifer is a police officer with the Forks County Police Department. As for the former reason, ICU previously installed cameras in the local community center and town park, which was experiencing a higher than usual rate of vandalism. Since the installation, the number of such incidences has decreased dramatically.

All told, there are 42 cameras — both fixed and pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) — situated throughout the three facilities. To record all of the cameras, ICU selected three 16-channel DVRs — standard with a 250GB hard drive, but upgraded to include 500GB hard drives — from i3DVR, a Toronto-based developer and manufacturer of video equipment.

The DVRs used are part of i3DVR’s new SRX Series. With 16 channels of video, 120 frames per second live viewing and full loop-out, the SRX Series is designed for use in commercial applications, including financial institutions and the food service industry. Its features include support for full integration with third-party software; four channels of audio; simultaneous recording and playback; UL listing; aluminum rack mount; optional internal RAID-5 storage; and a separate operating system.

When Marich and Keifer first launched ICU, it typically used time-lapse recorders, but as technology evolved and end users’ requirements have advanced, its use of DVRs and network-based security equipment has increased. ICU has used a variety of DVRs from a whole host of manufacturers in the past, but for Keifer, i3DVR is the best one he has seen to date.

The system at the Forks County municipal project is primarily wired with coaxial cable — for cameras located in a specific building — and Category-5 cable, which was used to create a link from the fire department and municipal building back to the police department, where the head-end is located. The head-end is where the system’s recording, viewing and monitoring are conducted. The Cat-5 cable is installed underground in a four-inch conduit that is solely devoted to ICU equipment.

The networked system also uses NVT hubs, which are located in each of the three buildings, including the fire station and the municipal building, which are approximately 700 feet away from the police department. The hubs allow for the transmission of real-time monochrome or color video over unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) wire.

Yearlong Project Moved Along as Construction Was Completed
Overall, the system’s installation went quite smoothly, according to Marich, but similar to most CCTV system designers, one of the major hurdles ICU had to overcome was how much storage space the township required to properly record all the images being captured by its Pelco and Speco cameras. In this particular installation, the hierarchy at ICU admits it was a trial-and-error process.

Because of the township’s familiarity with ICU, particularly Keifer, it essentially left the design, including camera location, up to the experts.

In total, ICU employed four people, including Marich and Keifer, to complete the installation.

Expansion, Networking Cameras for Patrol Car Access in Offing
Currently, the CCTV system is standalone and is not integrated with any of the buildings’ other security or automation systems. Marich says the township wanted it separate but is exploring ways to potentially network some of the security cameras with laptop computers stationed in police cars. The goal is to equip every officer with a laptop for their police cars, which will allow them to view these cameras remotely from their vehicles.

It’s been several months s
ince the system was turned on, and so far so good. Both Marich and Keifer say the system is working perfectly and that whenever the township is ready to expand the number of cameras, ICU is ready for the job.

“We always take the possibility of expansion into consideration,” insists Keifer. “If someone wants eight cameras, we suggest a 16-camera DVR – the price difference is marginal. We always go a step ahead, looking at the future. With what we have right now in the Forks County Municipal Project, there is room to expand.”

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