STE Security Innovation Award Silver Medalist: Eye on Crime

A rapidly growing IP surveillance project for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has become a model for other community surveillance systems


The thwarted drug deal on the first day was only one of the hundreds of incidents that we have managed to solve or deter in the year that the cameras have been operational. One of highest-profile incidents happened recently when a cat burglar that the county had been chasing for more than three years was apprehended after the IP cameras caught video footage of him crawling through a window of a targeted home.

Not only has crime decreased for the fourth straight year thanks to the hard work of our law enforcement teams, but with the added benefit of the surveillance system, our crime rate is reaching record lows. Specifically, in 2010, the total number of crimes when compared to 2009 was reduced by 16.2 percent, and compared to 2008, the reduction is even greater, at 25 percent. The county has so many examples of criminals caught in the act that we have developed a YouTube page (www.youtube.com/hcsovideo) to allow residents, town officials and anyone else to view the camera footage first-hand and help bring law breakers to justice.

Getting the community involved by using social media and video to keep residents informed and make them an intricate part of community safety is one step we made to ensure our citizens felt comfortable with the cameras. In order to manage possible hesitations of residents who might challenge the project, we ensured that the cameras would only monitor public areas. We also made the decision that the cameras would not be a secret, which is called an overt system.

Additionally, the specific grant we were awarded required us to conduct community meetings to announce and describe the project before the first camera was activated. During that time, residents could ask questions, check out the camera locations and learn how their quality of life could be improved with technology.

Continuing Innovation for the Future

Since the day we began installing the IP surveillance system, we have never looked back. With more than 350 cameras currently operating in the project, we have plans to increase that number to more than 700 IP cameras by the end of next year and more than 1,000 cameras in the year following as we connect with other county buildings and public areas. By the time all of our old analog technology is replaced throughout the county with one IP-based connected system, we expect to have approximately 2,000 cameras in place.

Our experience has been so successful that we have quickly become a model community for others who are eager to begin implementing similar systems. As we did with Chicago, we now have law enforcement and government personnel from across the nation visiting Hillsborough County to ask for advice on how to emulate our county surveillance system. By being able to share our experience with other agencies, we can help crime rates and surveillance strategies improve across the nation.

Craig McEntyre is Manager of the Business Support Bureau for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO). The Security Innovation Award is an annual competition held by STE magazine. The winning projects are chosen by a panel of security industry experts. For more details or to learn about entering next year’s competition, contact editor Steve Lasky at steve.lasky@cygnus.com.