Dallas PD Fights Crime With Video Surveillance

Wireless system makes citizens, businesses and tourists feel more secure in the city’s downtown area


For the Dallas Police Department, protecting the nation's ninth-largest city requires an unblinking focus on crime prevention while continually orchestrating the next series of moves to improve the overall security of citizens, businesses and visitors alike.

In this quest, the Dallas PD has relied on an enabling and increasingly effective partner: the deployment of the newest technology tools for deterring, detecting and investigating crime. The department, which includes some 3,000 officers and 500 civilian employees, was an early proponent of using video surveillance technology to reduce crime. The success of its pilot project, launched in early 2005, proved the viability of video surveillance cameras as an effective security, apprehension and crime-reduction tool.

In particular, the results gained by being able to monitor activity in real-time during peak entertainment hours in the active Deep Ellum area of Dallas added a new dimension to the department's law enforcement capabilities. The evidence is overwhelming: In the first four months of operation, there were substantial reductions in the number of both violent and non-violent crimes. This impressive showing made it very clear that extending the use of video surveillance could provide even greater benefits citywide, especially in the busy downtown area.

With the assistance of a grant from the Meadows Foundation, a private philanthropic institution, the Dallas Police Department gathered the incentive to deploy a state-of-the-art wireless video surveillance system to aid the city in deterring, detecting and investigating crime in its central business district. The effort would focus on reducing crime by 30 percent in “hot spot” areas within the downtown freeway loop, where many business, tourist, residential and entertainment venues are located, with in the first six months after deployment.

In mid-2006, the Dallas Police Department issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a turnkey video surveillance solution. The document detailed that potential plans must include the ability to install the necessary equipment on utility poles and building facades at major points in the city's central business district. During the research effort, officials were informed that the city's existing wired network infrastructure could not accommodate the additional traffic that would result from 24-hour video monitoring. This meant finding a new network solution — one that could provide for expedited delivery of large video files. The system also needed to deliver outstanding image clarity as license plates had to be clearly readable from 300 yards away and different camera angles had to be viewable without time delays.

 

High-Throughput with Quick Expandability

The challenge required a high-throughput network that could scale quickly to support more cameras and new locations as the application grew to cover more areas. Over time, the Dallas Police Department planned to expand the video surveillance system substantially, so they needed to be able to grow significantly without any drop in image quality or speed of delivery. The network had to deliver the same performance if 20 or 40 officers were monitoring videos at the same time.

The Dallas PD reviewed six proposals before narrowing the contenders to three. The eventual winner was Bearcom, a Dallas-based provider of wireless communications equipment and solutions. “Initially, we didn't approach this project with wireless technology in mind,” says Tom Lawrence, deputy police chief for the Dallas Police Department. “Bearcom proved we could deploy a self-contained public safety network without overhauling our existing infrastructure. Bearcom recommended a scalable network backbone featuring both substantial bandwidth and security for handling video streams.”

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