Surveillance Outta Compton: How a School District Was Unified With a Single Video Solution

An IP surveillance project anchored by Dahua Technology products is earning kudos thanks to remote capabilities, video enhancements, cost savings and more. See how integrator, manufacturer and end user turn a sophisticated solution into simplified success.

It’s hard enough to keep tabs on a school district that encompasses 25,000 K-12 and adult education students within an 11-square-mile footprint and 37 schools.

Add to that the element of Compton Unified School District (CUSD) being located in a suburban Los Angeles community with a high crime rate, while the now-defunct analog video surveillance system lingered as a jungle of outdated and damaged cabling hanging from CUSD Police Department buildings, and the security picture was clear that it was time to graduate to a modern surveillance system.

Easier said than done, however, when projects must take into consideration aspects such as challenges involving existing infrastructure, ease of operations for those who are tasked with using the systems, and even the aesthetic element of maintaining educational facilities that still look more like schools than security fortresses.

These were all on the mind of Police Chief William Wu at the CUSD Police Department (CUSDPD) under whose auspices the new video surveillance system would be centrally monitored.

“All Compton schools have fences and we’re looking to switch to wrought-iron fences and gates to reinforce the outer perimeters. We have to take those kind of precautions, and we have to balance aesthetics versus function,” Wu explains. “My concern is security first, of course: I’m responsible for the safety and security of the whole district, so I’m fighting for the side of function. On the other hand, there are equally valid voices that say, ‘I don’t want my school looking like a prison,’ and you have to balance that.”

At the center of the new surveillance system the CUSDPD facility needed to be outfitted with the modern technology and products to manage everything without a hiccup.

The plan is for new surveillance technology to cover the various Compton schools in phases as funding follows, but for starters the project has originated at the headend which involves implementing IP infrastructure in and around the police department facilities – a painstaking project in itself.

Read on to learn how it’s getting done as teamwork between end user, integrator and supplier are helping the CUSD security upgrade make the grade.

Mario Benitez and Advanced Alarm extended a solid existing relationship with the Compton Unified School District

Mario Benitez and Advanced Alarm extended a solid existing relationship with the Compton Unified School District by outfitting the CUSD police department with an IP video surveillance system. Benitez is getting assistance from Police Chief William Wu on the multiphase project.

Networked Solution Is Eye-Opening

For this crucial job, CUSDPD officials turned to Mario Benitez and Advanced Alarm in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., a systems integrator that’s been in business for 20 years. The firm was a natural fit as it has done work in police departments and has provided complete fire alarm services for all Compton schools as well as timeclocks, access control and intercom.

Benitez began to explore building an IP infrastructure that would span the 2.5-acre grounds without the need for trenching cables. This area houses the CUSDPD buildings, police vehicles, evidence sheds, and other municipal structures.

The integrator sought an economical yet scalable solution that would allow officers to remotely monitor video feeds directly from Compton school campuses, adding another layer to the department’s protection prowess.

Though Benitez, an authorized Dahua Technology dealer, had done similar work in police stations this was the first time he used the surveillance provider in this environment.

But he says he felt comfortable using the company’s DSS4004 video software that manages multiple offsite/ satellite locations and brings them into one central station – able to be viewed via one IP address – and that helped take the surveillance to “another level.”

It’s a departure for end users such as the CUSDPD that have worked with analog in the past.

“The market has had the opportunity, but nobody’s really explained to the end user what they’re really getting. They’re thinking analog, and they’re thinking cameras. One customer might say, ‘Do I really need all that IP stuff?’ and I tell them that they can’t get that many megapixels off of analog,” Benitez notes. “Long story short, at Advanced Alarm, we build networks now.”

Benitez designed a customized Dahua-backboned system that monitors the premises from the outside perimeter facing inward, a configuration that provides better views of the four buildings, three gates and grounds of the command center.

RELATED: How to Secure Your Campus With the Latest Access Control

Advanced deployed a solution that includes 20 Pro Series 4-megapixel (MP) WDR fixed lens WiFi cameras; a 32-channel NVR; three smart switches; the aforementioned DSS4004 surveillance management center; two 2.4GHz and 5.6GHz indoor access points; and four 5.6GHz wireless video transmission devices.

The setup creates a locked wireless connection. The first unit wirelessly connects six-eight IP cameras on the remote end. The second unit connects to the NVR network and transmits a signal from the remote cameras. The bridge requires an unobstructed line of sight to create the link.

The Dahua IP cameras and NVR proved to be beneficial because they offer a flexible solution that does not re-quire physical cabling to connect.

“We used wireless bridges to save the customer from having to do the conventional excavation of tearing up their asphalt to the conduits underground. The reason we used network solutions via IP cameras was so that we could future-proof the Compton USDPD infrastructure,” Benitez explains.

Vendor Support Spurs Success

The project required months of planning, a process that involved mapping the project on paper, strategic alignment of networked devices, an audit to ensure operability, and final integration and deployment.

In total the labor involved so far has accounted for roughly 432 man-hours, or three installers working 18 days’ worth of eight hours per day.

The project also worked as well as it did thanks to a strong collaborative effort between Advanced Alarm and Dahua USA Technical Sales Engineer Joe Hernandez when it came to special service design, engineering and programming.

“This is one of those projects where the heavy lifting comes in the planning stages. It was a complex project, but the Dahua team was very knowledgeable and helped us put together a powerful solution,” says Benitez. “So when it came time for the installation it was fast and everything went smoothly.”

Along with the police grounds, the initial phase of the surveillance job has also included other locations within the districts such as a central warehouse, food services warehouse and facility services operation, which contain local 6TB 16- or 32-channel video recorders and various megapixel bullet and minidome cameras.

Advanced Alarm created a wireless infrastructure

Advanced Alarm created a wireless infrastructure, allowing for cost savings by avoiding cable trenching.

Explains Hernandez: “When I first saw Compton USD, they had an existing installation of 14 cameras located in their central warehouse. The recorder was in the police station and they were trying to record via their VPN, which was setting them up
for problems, including the issue that the data being sent from the cameras was being choked by network congestion, and the fact that they would lose data if a network cable was cut. The solution I worked out with Mario is that all the recordings are done locally.

“Also, they now have a commercial-grade Internet connection provided by Time Warner dedicated only for the surveillance system. We know that all NVRs will be watched simultaneously, so we deployed [Dahua’s] DSS4004, which can pull video recordings from hundreds of NVRs and DVRs,” Hernandez continues.

“We dedicated a very powerful video workstation to show multiple sets of cameras on a 48-inch monitor.” Plans to outfit the CUSD administration building are imminent, and new approvals are expected to come to pass within the next four-eight months on other campus proposals, according to Benitez.

Read on to see how Benitez kept costs down and what the school district thinks of the solution…

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