Wireless Surveillance Keeps St. Louis Ward on Track to Cut Violent Crime 70%

By Ashley Willis

ST. LOUIS — After enduring 14 homicides in 2010, St. Louis’ 21st Ward has installed a new wireless video surveillance system, with a goal of reducing violent crime by 70 percent. Out of 28 wards in the city, the 21st Ward is the first to deploy this type of solution.

With the help of ADT Commercial, the subdivision’s system operates on a wireless mesh network designed in conjunction with Firetide. Additionally, the 21st Ward plans to deploy 14 Panasonic IP pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) cameras throughout the area in phases. Police officers will view video feeds using an OnSSI platform featuring video analytics at the ward’s newly created police substation, which features a multiscreen workstation. The workstation includes a graphical map application that visually signals when there is significant activity in a certain area.

“Currently we have six cameras up on one of our main streets,” Alderman Antonio French tells SSI. “Three more will go up by the end of this week at another one of our hot spots. Then we’ll add four in our major park, and we’ll just continue to expand this thing.”

Shortly after his election, French approached City Hall officials in December 2009 to begin the program; however, it took 18 months to get off the ground. Prior to the cameras, the subdivision relied on “old school policing” to handle crimes, French says. Unfortunately, when crimes occurred, many witnesses followed the “no snitching” rule, which oftentimes made it impossible for police to close some of the cases.

“Of the 14 murders we had last year, at least a dozen of them are still unsolved because no one comes forward,” French says. “One of the cases involved a woman — a mother of four — who was used as a human shield in broad daylight. There were so many people out there, but nobody came forward.”

When the tech-savvy French put out the bid for this project, he already knew what he had in mind: a wireless, expandable network so that neighboring wards could add cameras to the system. However, finding the right integrator wasn’t exactly easy for the alderman. He rejected all four initial requests for proposals (RFPs), including ADT Commercial’s, in March 2010.

“I believe at the time that they didn’t like everything that they saw in the first design and opportunity,” ADT Commercial Vice President of Sales Dan Schroeder tells SSI. “We re-bid again later in the July timeframe. I think we won the bid not because we were the lowest price; I think we were the best value for the citizens of St. Louis.”

French agrees, noting that ADT was one of the highest bids for the project. However, because of the company’s customer service history, the 21st Ward signed a contract with ADT that includes a three-year maintenance agreement.

The installation, which began in March 2011, has not been completely problem-free; in fact, there were a few challenges the integrator had to overcome, Schroeder says.

“There are always challenges when you design a network like this,” he says. “It was kind of unique because we were literally lining the first set of cameras down a major thoroughfare. We didn’t have the ability to go put a network on top of a 30-story building and carry a signal, so we had to carry it literally light post to light post. Simple things like the infrastructure of the tree-lined streets were getting in the way of some of the signaling. Since we didn’t want to damage the natural surroundings, we had an arborist come out because we wanted to design the system the right way to get it to work correctly.”

The system has already paid off for the 21st Ward. Roughly 72 hours after the first phase’s completion, police used the cameras to solve an abduction case that occurred outside of a local store.

“Our goal for our customers is to deter, detect and document, and these cameras are a real win as we move forward in technology that can capture usable video for evidence,” says Schroeder. “Now you can use the video as the one to step forward and put its neck on the line as opposed to an individual who is reluctant to do that.”

Funded by the 21st Ward’s One-half Cent Ward Capital Improvement Program, the $400,000 system has helped the subdivision stay on track to reduce crime. In fact, the ward has already seen an 80-percent drop in homicides this year, French says.

Click here view photos of the 21st Ward’s new police substation.

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

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