Watching The Waterside

Video surveillance upgrades enable Waterside Festival Marketplace General Manager Lane Brown to craft a retail security plan

Downtown Norfolk, Virginia, has been transformed in the last 20 years. By the late 1970s, many retail establishments had left the city. While office workers populated the area during the day, after dark the empty streets were not considered safe. The waterfront area, once busy with transport-related commerce, was a silent ruin. However, in the early 1980s, the city underwent a renaissance as businesses began to return.

The Waterside Festival Marketplace, locally known as “The Waterside,” opened in 1983 and has proven to be a magnet to new hotels, office buildings and tourist attractions. More than 20 years later, the downtown Norfolk area is clean, attractive and still growing quickly. Boat cruises and ferries depart daily from the adjacent waterfront. The location is served by public transit, and covered parking is available in several garages nearby.

The Waterside, located at the mouth of the Elizabeth River on Norfolk’s downtown waterfront, encompasses numerous specialty retail stores, an international food court, plus several sit-down restaurants and night clubs under one roof, and has become a major day-to-night draw both for tourists and residents of the area.

When it was time to consider upgrading the physical security at The Waterside, General Manager Lane Brown decided to add to their existing infrastructure, and they chose video surveillance systems from Panasonic System Solutions Company.

“For us, it was a question of cost vs. value,” Brown says. “We had looked through references and found good reviews on the Internet as well. Also, Steve Wilkins, who is the Operations Manager here, and I have both had experience with Panasonic System Solutions at Military Circle, a one-million square foot shopping center also in Norfolk.”

The previous system at The Waterside included 16 cameras feeding into a DVR and another seven cameras that were connected to an older VCR. Working with Tri-Tronics Ltd., a video surveillance, electronic security and audio communications specialist based in Virginia and North Carolina, Brown added two additional 16-channel Panasonic DVRs and six additional Panasonic Super Dynamic Vandal-Proof Day/Night Color Dome Cameras to the system. “We added cameras and put some outside and into other locations in the mall that needed more coverage,” Brown says.

The DVRs provide high-resolution/high density recording with full-rate, live multi-screen resolution and an expandable disk base capacity. Featuring the supplier’s Super Dynamic technology, the dome cameras eliminate common backlighting problems that can typically impair surveillance installations. The units feature day/night operation to deliver quality images in any lighting condition and feature high-impact-resistant domes with spring-mounted lenses for demanding locations.

The Waterside’s enhanced video surveillance system is controlled with Panasonic’s Matrix Switching System to provide advanced automated camera tour switching sequences, alarm/event-triggered operations and programmable monitoring assignments. The matrix switching system is expandable to accommodate future growth, including satellite monitoring and control locations.

“One area within the mall that needs the most surveillance would be the food court,” Brown says. “During the week we sometimes have entertainment, and that location draws a much larger crowd. On the weekends, we have a late-night crowd, so it is important to monitor the door adjacent to the crosswalk where it crosses over Waterside Drive. The crowds disperse at 2 a.m.”

In addition, Brown notes that with multiple tenants bringing waste to the dumpsters, it can be useful to review surveillance data when garbage is found all over the loading dock in the morning. “We can go right over and see who did it.”

At The Waterside, surveillance data generally is archived and monitored in real-time when warranted. “We have an in-house security staff of 11 and there is somebody here 24 hours a day,” Brown says. “The building is locked down between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m., when the cleaning crew comes in.”

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