Sony IPELA cams reduce crime, costs in California town

For the past three years, Pittsburg, California, located just east of the San Francisco Bay, has been watching an initial experiment with five RZ30 Sony IP-based network surveillance cameras grow into a key law enforcement tool with fifty cameras, now mostly RX550’s, on duty. Aside from providing key evidence in prosecutions, the cameras also head off trouble by capturing events in public places, protecting citizens from false prosecutions as well as the city from lawsuits.

"In the five years since our initial installation of the Sony network cameras, we’ve gained an indispensable tool for our department and for serving the citizens of Pittsburg," said Chief Aaron Baker, City of Pittsburg.

From the start, Baker had assigned Captain William Zbacnik to research and deploy the system that has become a signal success.

"We’ve captured over 100 incidents with the Sony cameras from vandalism to stranger kidnappings. They allow us to verify timelines for events, a key element in investigations," said Captain Zbacnik. "I’ve been in police work for 28 years, and know the issues of working with eyewitnesses and police reports. With Sony IPELA cameras, we’re able to accurately document incidents in ways not possible before."

According to Captain Zbacnik the department first discovered the possibilities for IP-based wireless surveillance systems in 2003. A $50,000 technology grant was available for the city, and the police department could apply for it.

Zbacnik began research on new development, and the then-emerging wireless surveillance technology looked promising. A request for proposals went forward, with several firms responding. California-based Odin Systems set itself apart from the competition by demonstrated a mastery of these next-generation systems. The initial installation connected five Sony RZ30 cameras via wireless IP links watching the two major thoroughfares in town.

"Initially, we wanted to get a good sense of the capabilities of the wireless technology – the resolution, frame rates and the like. We had modest expectations – didn’t want to oversell the system and then be disappointed. But the results with the Sony cameras have been outstanding, and have set us into building this out as fast as our budgets allow," said Zbacnik.

Over time, the system has grown by adding the latest generation RX550 PTZ cameras to expand and replace the installed base of RZ30 PTZ cameras. For Zbacnik, the advances incorporated into the new cameras enhance imaging, especially in low light situation. Also, the viewing angles are expanded and bandwidth use optimized.

"We were so impressed by the RZ30’s ability to deliver quality images over the wireless network that we could have hardly hoped for better. The arrival of the RX550 has really been a significant improvement, and we are quite pleased with how Sony is quickly advancing the technology," Zbacnik said.

Into Action, On the Streets, Savings and Success

All along the way, the system has delivered success and value, according to Zbacnik. In addition to helping in prosecuting homicide cases by being able to pin down the time and location of the suspect’s vehicle to and from crime scenes, the cameras have also delivered in unexpected ways. Zbacnik noted one case where a person arrested claimed he had suffered harsh treatment. The camera footage showed that officers had exercised the appropriate restraint. In another case, allegations of an assault that would typically have forced a major investigation were debunked by visual information showing that the alleged crime had not occurred.

"Often, people look to cutting crime stats to show the value of these systems. But they deliver in so many ways that add up to significant savings for the police department and for the city," Zbacnik said.