Standing under the metal pole supporting the wireless mesh video and radio array, Jon Sargent looked out onto the entrance of Nichols City Park and remembers what it was like decades ago when he was growing up in Richmond, Calif., as a child. “Back over there were carnival rides for the kids,” says Sargent, an industry relations manager with ADT, as he pointed to a grassy track at the far corner of the park, “and to the right was a petting zoo.”
Today, as Richmond struggles to emerge from what was once a heavy industrial port city to a high-technology suburb of San Francisco, Nichols Park’s carousel and petting zoo have been replaced by the homeless and drug dealers.
Looking for solutions to help curb the growing crime and blight problems faced by his city, Richmond city manager Bill Lindsay, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, police commissioner Naomi Williams, along with other civic and police leaders, researched possible solutions by browsing the internet and talking with other cities that had implemented technology to combat similar issues.
According to the Municipal Wireless State of the Market report (muniwirelss.com), more than $914 million was expected to be spent on municipal wireless networks in the United States this year. A five-year CAGR of 105 percent for mesh networking is projected worldwide by 2009.
Going with Mesh
An RFI was issued for a video surveillance system in November 2006. The specifications requested surveillance cameras be placed in high-crime areas, with an eventual eye on having that video sent directly to mobile police units. The city selected ADT as the project integrator, choosing to go with a wireless mesh network video solution.
So when the port of Richmond received a multi-million-dollar grant from the Department of Homeland Security to help fortify its perimeter security, port executive director Jim Matzorkis and deputy port director Norman Chan quickly bought into the wireless mesh video option.
The result of this very public collaboration has been a model program incorporating community improvement initiatives with high-tech technology partners. This strategic plan not only protects one of the largest working seaports in the state, but addresses immediate and future security and civic issues facing this diverse city.
“We are no different than any other city in transition around the nation,” says Lindsay, who has been Richmond’s city manager since 2005 and previously served in the same capacity for a decade in Orinda, Calif. “Working in conjunction with the port, our police department and various other city departments, we looked to identify the problem areas and how we could economically and realistically address them. This was in no way strictly a police initiative — in fact, one of the main drivers came from our city waste management department, which needed help monitoring illegal ‘hot spot’ dumping. The police also saw the value in helping them track everything from drug-related criminal activity to tagging.”