Secured Cities conference shares municipal video and urban security education

From crime camera projects to aviation security, DHS funding, legal privacy concerns, conference provides education on urban security technology deployments

The Secured Cities conference wrapped up in Chicago last Friday, April 20, 2012, providing attendees with insights on funding for urban projects, emerging video technologies, legal issues for municipal video, and thoughts from leading law enforcement and technology leaders.

City administrators, managers, end-users, integrators and vendors gathered in the Windy City to discuss the latest topics in municipal video surveillance deployments. Top of mind was storage and bandwidth, the proliferation of video networks that share video feeds and integrated solutions in a "federated" design; as well as new areas of funding as local municipal funds dwindle and Department of Homeland Security grants and other monies become less prevalent.

Secured Cities Conference Director Geoff Kohl kicked off the two-day event on Thursday, April 19 stating that the industry needs to "protect our investments in urban infrastructures—and most importantly—protect our people. This may be the Second City, but it's second to none in its approach to urban security, especially as it prepares for the upcoming NATO gathering," he said.

Chicago Police Department keynotes opening

Known throughout the U.S. and perhaps the world as a steadfast proponent of municipal video surveillance systems, Chicago Police Department's Sergeant Patrick O'Donnell gave a frank discussion on the thousands of cameras in and around the city, even chronicling some of the missteps made that others deploying these types of extensive networks may learn from.

The second largest police department in the U.S., the Chicago Police Department has roughly 4.8 officers for every 1,000 residents, according to O'Donnell, and one of the initial challenges in building out the video surveillance was tapping into networks that did not include the fiber optic backbone readily available in the downtown areas and business districts.

"But we had radio towers and fiber running back from those radio towers so we were able to leverage that and a lot of other strategies to get the video back to us," O'Donnell said.  Some of the different strategies deployed to build out the "federated (i.e., using other public and private agency cameras) network" included direct-to-fiber connections; mesh-to-fiber; radio to an aggregation point then fed into the fiber; and the 3G/4G cellular network combined with modems and cable modems where line of sight was problematic or not available. Chicago's Office of Emergency Management & Communications (OEMC), also where the city's 911 dispatch center is located, views video and uses live feeds to let officers know what's going on in and around the city. In fact, every video feed in the Chicago surveillance network is available into the OEMC.

O'Donnell also talked about the importance of the city's federated system, which brings in core security devices and cameras from agencies and private businesses across the area. The system is federated, for example, to Chicago's Operation Virtual Shield; Chicago Public Schools; the Chicago Housing Authority (which recently purchased 13,000 cameras for deployment); the Chicago Transit Authority; Department of Transportation; Department of Streets and Sanitation; Department of Aviation at O'Hare and Midway Airports; and other entities. Chicago currently has ownership or access to some 17,000 cameras, 1,000 of those which are high-definition (HD), 48 analytics (license plate recognition) units and 20 thermal cameras.

"We leverage cameras from outlying areas so we don't have to purchase as many," O'Donnell said. "We are also expanding our Police Observation Devices (PODs) program of cameras, and much of the funding today is coming not only from the city but corporations and the aldermen (who also have some funding and can purchase cameras through Ward funds), as well as 1505 Narcotics Seizure funds, U.S. Department of Justice grants and the Illinois Board of Higher Education." He added that since June 2011, there were some 1,446 PODs-related arrests as a result of video evidence.

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