VMS in Action: Technology Enhances Law Enforcement in Boca Raton

Police are able to manage and analyze video from daily operations to special events like the third Presidential Debate

With more than 200 cameras, license plate recognition and dashboard cameras in patrol cars, to say the Boca Raton, Fla., police have a lot of video to sift through is an understatement; however, thanks to a robust Video Management System (VMS), the city and the police have harnessed video surveillance technology as a useful tool to empower effective law enforcement.

The Boca Raton Police Department has 193 sworn officers and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement (CALEA). An affluent community in South Florida, Boca Raton has 29.1 square miles of total area and a population of 85,000. The city is home to two universities and several high-tech companies.

City officials have been thoughtful and deliberate in their deployment of video surveillance. “The city toured video deployments in other cities to glean lessons learned and tailor the project to mirror what works at other locales,” says Jim Burke, the police department's Director of Support Services. A quarterly meeting of stakeholders guides ongoing development of the evolving video system in Boca Raton. The meeting includes the IT Director, the department of municipal services, the police department and the city manager's office; and the relationship between the police department and the traffic engineering department is vital because the police use the traffic department's fiber-optic cabling to transmit video. “We try to get buy-in from everyone,” Burke says. “We have taken our time to vet the systems that work and to get the best bang for our buck.”

The backbone of the video management system is the Ocularis open-architecture video management platform from supplier OnSSI.


Emphasizing Simplicity and Redundancy

A fiber-optic network transports traffic video from more than 200 surveillance cameras positioned in parks and at traffic intersections, back to a police department communications center. Video systems also include license plate recognition (LPR) cameras and an in-vehicle video system in the patrol cars, from which video is uploaded when vehicles return to the department. Some legacy analog equipment is also still up and running in some locations.

For video surveillance, the police department is looking to standardize on cameras from suppliers including Axis, Panasonic, Sony and Pelco, in order to minimize the need for resources to repair or replace cameras. Currently the majority of cameras are Axis fixed and PTZ models. There are also 19 1080p PTZ cameras in Mizner Park, an upscale downtown area that includes an amphitheater that holds up to 5,000 people.

System redundancy includes local video servers at each location, recording on-site and providing video to be monitored at the police department's administration server located in the department's IT room. Localized video recording is at 15 to 30 frames per second (fps), depending on the location. Michael Falcone, whose job is to support the video and communications systems for the police department, can access video from anywhere on the system from his central location. Police officers who need to view video from a certain area at a certain time contact Falcone with a formal request to view the video, which he provides.

A Firetide wireless mesh network enables the video system to expand beyond the reach of the fiber-optic network. Currently there are about 10 active wireless nodes and about eight left to install, paid for by a grant received four years ago.


Getting Private Sector Buy-in

Video surveillance is a city project in Boca Raton, but the police department is looking to expand the program to include participation by neighborhoods and businesses within the next two years. Expansion of the initiative depends on available resources, given that the police department is a medium-sized agency doing everything in-house, Burke says. Consultants and dealer-installers have been hired at various points using a competitive bid process, but the general maintenance of the system is done in-house to save costs.

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