Pittsburgh's Housing Authority Employs Advanced Video Surveillance Strategies

The challenge was to pull together outdated and disparate systems into a modern, functional solution

Public housing properties in Pittsburgh, Pa, were plagued with crime both during daylight and nighttime hours. Residents were afraid to leave their homes and their quality of life was suffering. Crimes, including shootings, were often unreported to police, while security guards lived in fear of retribution as a lack of submissable evidence kept criminals from being identified and locked-up.

Compounding the problem was the size and location of the widely dispersed communities within the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh (HACP) that serve 2,845 households. With 18 properties located throughout the city, deployment of cameras and the centralization of the system for monitoring was a significant issue.

Additionally, the communities needed to remain accessible for residents, as well as public services and deliveries; yet a large percentage of the reported crimes were conducted by non-residents, according to HACP management.

So what was the security objective in this challenging environment? HACP needed to implement a widespread video surveillance solution that provided comprehensive coverage of the streets within HACP communities, and could be accessed both locally by security personnel as well as centrally by HACP management.


The solution: video surveillance that works

HACP had a disparate array of analog pan-tilt-zoom cameras that were frequently pointed in the wrong direction, and as a result, completely missed events and/or provided poor video footage that could not be used as evidence to crimes committed on HACP properties. Crimes often went unsolved as a result because residents were afraid to come forward and report shoot outs and brawls. This left authorities to discover the incidents weeks, if not months later – if at all.

By investing in a long-term partnership with Samsung, the Housing Authority developed an overarching video surveillance program that covered all 18 communities around the Pittsburgh area. This was accomplished with the installation of over 800 Samsung IP cameras. Cameras include a combination of high performance pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) or megapixel (1.3 to 3 MP) cameras capable of capturing high-quality forensic evidence.

Johnson Controls, Inc. designed and built the system which, in addition to the Samsung cameras, included Intransa servers/storage devices; Alcatel Lucent switches; Milestone video management systems; and Altronix media and fiber converters. Project management by Johnson Controls, Inc. comprised overseeing sub-contractors, integrating the various elements, training and final commissioning of the system.

The new video surveillance system’s basic infrastructure consists of PoE capable IP video with feeds directly into local networked Intransa storage devices. Video and data from all of the remotely located storage units are processed through Milestone’s Video Management Software (VMS) at the HACP’s headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh. A monitor wall allows HACP security personnel to observe, isolate and grab composites of images they want from the server, which allows the remote devices to run smoothly without interrupting any video feeds. The system also enables authorized HACP staff to view recorded or live video from their desks. Fiber optic cabling was run to every location from the headquarters office in order to maintain consistent, high speed transmission speeds. Nearly every light pole in each of the 18 HACP communities holds as many as three cameras to provide coverage from literally every angle of the streets below. Community spaces, such as building lobbies, playgrounds and after-school programs are also outfitted with Samsung cameras.

Measures were taken to install cameras in hard to reach places to avoid tampering and to help avoid making the large video surveillance presence seem too overwhelming – yet noticeable as a deterrent to criminal activities. In the event a camera becomes disabled, an alert is sent out in real-time through the VMS system to notify officials.

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