Call to Duty

With its seemingly unlimited application possibilities, video monitoring is providing integrators new growth potential while offering service versatility to customers. Nearly every security job being performed benefits from the installation of cameras. For customers the benefits of having real-time reporting at their location can mean a tremendous cost savings and benefit to security and life safety.

The Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) in its Video Verification White Paper reported, “law enforcement agencies would prefer to know there is actual criminal activity taking place prior to committing resources,” and went on to say some in the industry believe video verification, “should be a prerequisite for an alarm dispatch.” False alarm dispatch is a national problem, according to SIAC, and law enforcement is looking at every way possible to reduce the strain on manpower and resources. Video verification has become a welcomed and explored tool to combat this.

Case in point

At a public housing complex in New Jersey, video verification along with an on-site command center has reduced crime and aided in the apprehension of known criminals. “When we installed the system the residents greatly welcomed the technology which had before this time, turned their residence into a prison for them but not the criminals who were constantly conducting illegal activities there,” explained Zsolt Sapy, president of Pro-Active Business Solutions, Westbury, N.Y. and founder of the National Association of Installing Partners, Massapequa Park, N.Y.

The housing complexes were monitored by the owners of the property and the security attendants on location. The complex consisted of over 200 Section 8 housing units spread across three multi-story buildings with courtyards and one main entrance. “We placed 300 cameras throughout the complex routed back to the main viewing area,” said Sapy. “The operators have the tools to monitor what is going on and relay that information to the police. An event can be stored or sent directly to the police station where it has been used in criminal prosecutions.”

Video and access control guards

The reliance on this technology has not gone unnoticed by both integrators and central stations. Mark Fischer, vice president/CTO, Nationwide Digital Monitoring, Freeport, N.Y. explained, “a true verification system will provide pre-alarm, event and post alarm reporting. There are very inexpensive devices out there that will allow you to do that properly so that the central station gets to see what exactly caused the alarm.” Fischer has found slow growth in the residential market, but tremendous growth in commercial. By combining this technology with access control, companies with shift workers or on-site guards have jumped on board. “There is a lot of growth in video guards. One area that has benefited is new construction sites because there is a great potential for theft of materials,” said Fischer. Many insurance companies are requiring video monitoring to ensure materials stay put. Adding audio is also an effective tool to prevent a crime before it happens. The ability of the monitoring stations to service the account during alarm trigger, through a speaker to alert the perpetrator, also has its advantages, according to Sapy.

“The perpetrator has been caught on film but encouraged not to do any damage because of the direct line of communication that has been established as an event unfolds.”

Nationwide Digital Monitoring has 100,000 monitoring accounts and while the technology is an asset to commercial customers such as housing complexes, construction sites and other commercial locations, the residential market hasn’t been as enthusiastic. “It is a privacy issue. For a residential customer getting an alarm event at 3 a.m. and being in the camera’s eye-in a condition you may not want to be seen in, is an issue.” Fischer also points out that there is technology on the market from manufacturers who understand this issue and are building in safeguards to prevent operators from looking in when there isn’t an alarm. But it doesn’t prevent the camera from going on during the event, so Fischer educates his customers on the proper placement of cameras and the benefits which he feels outweigh the drawbacks.

End-users of the technology also appreciate the flexibility they have for using the technology; to receive alerts and monitor sites from their PDAs and laptops. “Video is an add-on and a feature a customer really appreciates. Combined with sensors, customers depend on the e-mail alerts and when brought together with video—the level of awareness and control to the customer increases the value to them,” said Bob McCarthy, director of Product Management, Alarm.com, McLean, Va.

In order for video verification to grow in the residential market, McCarthy supports the notion of educating the consumer on the value of having the right technology with built-in safeguards. “This technology will be integrated into the central station as it has with commercial installations.” The growth, he said, will be through letting the customers choose which cameras can be seen by the central station. “Commercial customers want the central station to see everything. Residences want the central station to see the entrances only.”

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