Chicago Housing Project Fights Crime With Wireless Surveillance

By Ashley Willis

CHICAGO — Among its efforts to combat rampant drug crimes and gang activity at the Jackson Square at West End housing project, the complex is utilizing a wireless surveillance system.

In the late 1980s, Chicago authorities created Operation Clean Sweep to clear city housing projects of rampant gang and criminal activities. When the program largely failed, Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) launched a plan to demolish and renovate city projects. Jackson Square at West End, formerly called Rockwell Gardens, was established as part of that redevelopment program. Located on Chicago’s revitalized west side, the housing development features newly constructed condos, townhomes and single family dwellings.

At the request of Burling Builders, the general contractor for the renovation project, Northbrook, Ill.-based LaMarCo Systems designed and installed a wireless mesh system amid 15 buildings using 15 Firetide 7020 wireless mesh nodes with panel antennas. The integrator also deployed 23 Axis Communications P3344-VE HDTV fixed dome network cameras throughout the area. Officers at Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) can remotely review video feeds with OnSSI Ocularis video management software (VMS).

“The end user required wireless equipment because the system was being distributed throughout 15 buildings with a single network video recorder,” LaMarCo Operations Manager Dzmitry Beliayeu tells SSI. “We decided to use high-definition IP video to give the customer higher resolution for better recognition and identification.”

Founded in 1998, LaMarCo installs access control, CCTV, fire alarms, intercoms, intrusion alarms, mass notification and video management solutions for roughly 3,000 clients, 90% of which are commercial. The integrator learned about the project in September 2011 through Burling Builders, a company LaMarCo works with regularly. The strong relationship between the two firms helped the electronic security contractor win the job, according to Beliayeu.

Beginning in December 2011, the LaMarCo three-member integration team had much to accomplish during the two-month, 250-hour installation project. Before the installation commenced, Beliayeu, who also served as project manager, designed a system for the housing project after speaking extensively with personnel at East Lake Management, Jackson Square’s property management company.

“The planning phase included the wireless mesh system design, the required throughput calculations and bench testing on the mesh,” Beliayeu explains. “We chose Firetide because we’ve been partners with them for a couple of years. Management suggested the locations of the cameras, while the architect of the project suggested we use Axis cameras and the OnSSI platform. We’re actually an Axis partner as well, so we knew that it was a reliable product for this project.”

To keep the project on schedule, LaMarCo worked hand-in-hand with electrical and building contractors, as well as held numerous status meetings with East Lake Management and the complex’s architect via in-person consultations, E-mail and conference calls. Despite all the attempts to keep everything on track, there were hurdles LaMarCo had to overcome. As it turned out, because the job took place during the winter months, Mother Nature set the installation back a couple of days.

“It was impossible to install the cameras when it was snowing and raining,” Beliayeu says. “We couldn’t work during that time because we had to pressurize the connectors on the antennas and wireless nodes and wireless infrastructure. For our team to do that, it had to be dry.”

Shortly after installing the new solution, the LaMarCo team trained four East Lake Management employees assigned to manage the equipment. So far, there have been no incidences with the system, which makes it easier for residents, Beliayeu says.

“Because they can see the cameras, the system definitely makes the residents feel safer. It keeps a lot of people out of trouble, and it definitely gives management peace of mind.”

Ashley Willis is associate editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. She can be reached at (310) 533-2419.

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