Extra Eyes Patrol City’s Streets
Fed up with rising criminal activity, a local crime commission in Lancaster, Pa., decided in 2001 that video surveillance cameras might be the answer to making the town safer. Soon a collection of business owners, civic boosters and city officials created the Lancaster Community Safety Coalition (LCSC).
By 2004 the nonprofit organization installed its first camera on a troubled downtown street corner with the help of a small local security company. Today, featuring a robust solution provided by Bosch Security Systems Inc., LCSC is on the verge of completing a 165-camera surveillance project that covers nearly all public spaces of the four-square-mile town.
Featuring a fiber-optic backbone (a portion of the cameras also utilize wireless technology) the solution provides live, round-the-clock viewing of nearly every street, park and other public space used by more the 55,000 residents and the community’s many tourists.
Forging relationships with such community groups via town hall gatherings, neighborhood watch meetings and community service outreach programs can position your security installation business to get the call when monies are allocated for public safety.
Securing a City’s Historic Streets
When the city planned to upgrade its traffic signal communications from copper to fiber optics, the coalition worked with city engineers to ensure the fiber-optic network could also support the video surveillance system. The relationship with its original security contractor short-lived, LCSC later subcontracted with Siemens Building Technologies (SBT) and other vendors to complete the majority of the solution’s expansion throughout the community.
Baldwin Network Services of Narvon, Pa., is responsible for running fiber from each camera back to the head-end, located at the coalition’s downtown offices. The company is connecting Bosch AutoDome and EnviroDome pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) analog cameras all through the city, which stream video over more than 100 miles of fiber-optic strands.
The coalition also contracted with Let’s Think Wireless of Pine Brook, N.J., which has broad experience in community surveillance projects, to aid in the design and integration of the scalable system. Craig Lerman, vice president of Let’s Think Wireless, says getting permission to install cameras on utility poles and other properties introduced some of the biggest headaches to what has otherwise been a mostly straightforward installation.
“The issues you run into are who owns the mounting assets and how hard is it to get rights to mount things,” he says. “It all really comes down to coordinating, and access tends to be the time delay.”
Working in tandem with technicians from Baldwin Network Services, Lerman’s company provided the technology expertise to install about 15 cameras wirelessly in and around Lancaster’s downtown area, which was first laid out in the early 1730s. While fiber for the total solution runs above and below ground for most of the solution, wireless functionality was chosen in Penn Square in the downtown area so to be as unobtrusive as possible.
“It was to keep the aesthetics, to keep that rustic look and not have the additional wires running everywhere that are visible to everybody,” says Doyle Reiter, project manager, Baldwin Network Services.
Rustic, indeed. During the American Revolution Lancaster served briefly as the capital of the colonies where the founding fathers plotted against the British. Penn Square is also home to the historic Central Market, which was built in 1889, making it the oldest, continuously-operated farmers market in the United States.
All camera placement is coordinated with the police, along with business owners and other members of the community. If a camera is requested in a certain area, coalition employees will review the surroundings and determine if environmental design, such as trimming trees or adding lighting, would help to reduce crime. Once these environmental changes are made, the coalition will re-evaluate the area. If crime remains a problem, the coalition will work with its security providers and the local energy company to secure power and install the camera.
LCSC Takes Charge of Monitoring
Lancaster’s program is atypical of other community surveillance efforts in that the private LCSC, not police, monitors the cameras. The LCSC, which is not overseen by any public agency, provides its own training to about 10 local residents who are hired to monitor live video from the cameras 16 hours per day.
The head-end of Lancaster’s fiber solution features a Bosch bidirectional transmission system. A video signal independently transmits from a camera location to the controller site, while simultaneously transmitting control code from the controller site to the camera location.
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