An inside look at citywide surveillance in Freeport, Texas

City officials coordinated technology project with local industry, economic development, law enforcement, county, tourism and others


March 24, 2011 -- When it comes to installing a municipal surveillance system, there are many things that city leaders must take into consideration. The city of Freeport, Texas, which is located about 50 miles southeast of Houston, features a thriving tourism industry, as well as 29 petrochemical facilities. The city recently partnered with ADT to implement a city-wide, wireless mesh surveillance system.

Joining SecurityInfoWatch.com on Thursday for a webinar to discuss some of challenges related to implementing this system were Freeport City Manager Jeff Pynes, Freeport Chief of Police Tyrone Morrow and ADT Security Services Regional Account Manager Sam Sutherland. The webinar will be available for one year in an archived format at www.securityinfowatch.com/webinars/publicinfrastructure.

According to Pynes, Freeport, which encompasses 14-square-miles, needed a camera system that would not only help address crime related issues in the city, but could also be used to safeguard the city’s critical infrastructure facilities and port, which is ranked 16th among ports in the U.S. in international cargo tonnage handled. The port projects to move into the top 10 when the Panama Canal is expanded in 2014.

"We’re a medium-sized city with large-sized problems and technology will help us combat those problems," Pynes said.

Morrow said that the city saw surveillance technology as a force multiplier that would give police officers additional eyes and ears in the community.

"An officer can’t always be there, but a camera can," he said.

Morrow added that one of the keys in getting the system approved was engaging in dialog with the city’s stakeholders, which includes residents, private entities, schools, churches and community leaders. He also said that it’s important to "paint a picture" for the stakeholders regarding how the system will be utilized and to create a "sense of urgency" as to what could happen if the system is not installed. Involving stakeholders in the plan early will make it harder for them to pushback later, according to Morrow.

Morrow, who previously oversaw the implementation of cameras in Bryan, Texas, also provided tips to other cities that are planning to install surveillance systems, which include leaving your ego at the door; analyzing the true needs for the system and learning the goals of your community; conducting market research to see if a similar plan strategy has been implemented elsewhere and review that plan; develop partnerships with the public and private sector; build a comprehensive public safety plan; form work committees to develop a public safety strategy and open dialog with stakeholders; identify funding sources early; and finally, market and implement the plan.

In addition to addressing crime hot spots and safeguarding the city’s critical infrastructure facilities, port and new $10 million marina, Morrow said that the 55-camera surveillance system would also help the city with its emergency operations plan. For example, when a hurricane threatens the city and residents are forced to evacuate, the cameras can be used to monitor traffic flow and look out for any looters that may try to take advantage of the situation.

The cameras will also help the city keep an eye of special events. One festival planned for later this year is expected to draw more than 40,000 people to the city’s downtown area. Freeport also plans to mount cameras on bridges and other strategic locations to monitor waterways.

The city used a combination of grants and contributions from the private business community to help fund the project which will take place in three phases. The first phase includes the installation of the head-end surveillance and recording infrastructure. Phase two will involve linking the camera network with cameras already being used by private entities in the city, while the third phase will see added surveillance capabilities at Freeport’s downtown shopping district, public sports complexes and high schools.

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