Seeing is believing. It is proof. It is what law enforcement and first responders need to be effective. And it is the heart of SecureWatch 24’s security business. “Video is the direction the whole industry is going,” says SW24 President Desmond Smyth.
Smyth is proud that his company, founded as SecureWatch 24, has focused heavily on video since the turn of this century. Add recent capability with mobile applications — from mobile security video in trucks to license plate recognition — and Smyth is convinced his firm is on the right track.
How it Started
Smyth founded the company after working with the New York Police Department, from which he retired as a detective. His first posting was with the 77th Precinct in Brooklyn, where he began his NYPD career; however, that came after a technology stint with Xerox and time as a Pan Am airline mechanic. Somehow, it all meshed to his position today at the head of a company running the largest public-private video partnership in the nation.
“My brother was the cop,” Smyth says. “For me, it was a job with a paycheck while I found something else.” Twenty years of service later, he finds himself blessed with multiple technology and law-enforcement skill sets that led him to build his own security firm. “Technology is not security,” Smyth warns those who are in love with high-tech. “It is the application of the technology that makes the difference.”
He continues: “Video alone is not the answer. But if you can get it to the district attorney or narcotics detective, then you are making progress.”
Smyth got his video security start working with apartment building owners. Noting that nobody spends $20 million on a complex hoping to see it deteriorate to a slum, he says that proper deployment of good technology backed by the right applications can make the difference.
As a cop on patrol, he noticed an investment building in the Bronx where the landlord whitewashed the walls and installed video cameras. “He was doing all the right things,” Smyth thought. Two weeks later, the building was covered with graffiti, windows were broken and the cameras were dangling. He could see the landlord’s investment slipping away.
With his background, Smyth knew that the police detectives wanted to make arrests for this kind of unlawful activity. He figured that handing the officer a video of an identified punk selling drugs or kicking in a door, coupled with a signed complaint from the property owner, nearly guaranteed a good arrest. Everyone won. “We supplied video to the NYPD. We cultivated good relationships. We made it easy for them to do their jobs,” Smyth says.
That program, now called the Citywide Safety Initiative (CSI), enables police to get warrants and make arrests after Smyth supplies them with video — with the property owner’s permission. CSI also enables the police to see video in real time.
Today, CSI has ballooned to 28,000 cameras in the New York City area — all monitored and maintained by SW24. They stream more than 6,000 cameras, and the system is currently expanding into Long Island and West Chester, N.Y.; Newark, N.J.; and potentially Boston and Philadelphia. “Police can have access to the system at any time,” Smyth says. “We are the most successful public-private collaboration around.”
Harnessing the Power of Video
SW24 has a long history in video technology. “We were streaming video on cable modems 10 years ago,” Smyth says. By 2005, they had the largest private security network in the area. At that point, he hired his former NYPD partner Gene Dellaglio — whom he affectionately describes as a geeky software guy — as a partner in the company. Together, they built the company.
One major innovation that gave a huge payoff is the company’s ability to stream video directly to the police narcotics division offices. Customers are billed on a per-camera, per-month basis. Word spread among landlords and SecureWatch 24’s business grew.