Eye on Crime

STE Security Innovation Award Silver Medalist: A rapidly growing IP surveillance project for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has become a model for other community surveillance systems


When the Tampa, Fla.’s Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) says that it prides itself on serving, protecting and defending our community, we truly mean it.

We are one of less than 20 public safety agencies in the nation to have attained law enforcement, jail and medical accreditation, earning the coveted “Triple Crown” of law enforcement certification.

We strive to stay on the forefront of law enforcement trends to keep our community safe; however, in the last few years, we have faced a challenge similar to many other cities and counties across the nation — a struggling economy. While our population continues to grow, the number of deputies on the street has remained consistent due in part to government budget and resource constraints. Currently, there are only 1.6 deputies per 1,000 residents in Hillsborough County, significantly lower than the national average for law enforcement agencies of 2.5 officers per capita.

We don’t let those numbers hold us back. It just means our Sheriff’s Office must work smarter to reduce crime. That is the mindset that motivated us to create the HCSO “Eye on Crime” Project.

The Eye on Crime Project led us to redefine how we battle crime, from being less reactive to being more proactive. The project planning included an idea to provide a visible, identifiable deterrent to crime while, at the same time, creating a viable solution to offer additional safety and security for the community. A goal of the project was to create a more innovative, cost-effective and efficient way to support our law enforcement personnel.

After some preliminary research on other surveillance systems in the country, we were impressed with the security model in the city of Chicago that had been featured in several magazines and on various news outlets. This is a city surveillance system based heavily on network video surveillance, with a combination of IP cameras and encoded analog cameras. Our initial concern was that implementing such a solution would be prohibited by our budget; but, after visiting the Chicago site first-hand, we knew we had to make this state-of-the-art system work for us.

While we had a strong idea of what we wanted to take away from Chicago’s city surveillance model, we didn’t want to make any rash decisions — this surveillance system had to specifically meet HCSO’s goals.

IP Investment

After receiving a $1 million grant from the United States Department of Justice, we drafted an initial proposal that included several tips that were passed along from our colleagues in Chicago. The one major difference between the HCSO system and Chicago’s is that we chose to go all-IP (i.e. no encoded analog cameras). This was a recommendation from our Chicago colleagues not only so that our cameras would produce far better image quality, but also to future-proof the system and provide a repeatable process for installation and internal training.

Once the research phase was complete, a Request for Proposal was ultimately awarded to SiteSecure Inc., a security integration, construction and engineering firm, as the prime contractor. SiteSecure then began a multi-year “design-build” process to further evaluate our surveillance options and begin implementation.

From the beginning, we knew that we wanted the highest quality of technology to give our county and residents the most return for the investment. That meant IP cameras with no less than 720p HDTV images connected to a hybrid wireless infrastructure would need to be installed.

For the initial phase, we deployed 20 IP cameras from Axis Communications in May 2010. The cameras communicate via a wireless infrastructure network that is a mix of Firetide and Motorola products. We hit a few unexpected logistical bumps with the initial install when additional permits for erecting new poles and running power for the technology had to be obtained; however, the end-results made these early challenges well worth it.

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