State-of-the-art security tech safeguards the Little League World Series

Aug. 21, 2014
Combination of video surveillance, access control solutions protect players, spectators

The Little League World Series, held annually in Williamsport, Pa., will crown a new champion this weekend as the two-week long competition comes to an end. Keeping watch over the festivities will be a well-seasoned security team backed up by a myriad of technologies, not the least of which includes a variety of both wired and wireless video surveillance solutions, as well as access control and metal detectors.

Jim Ferguson, director of security for the LLWS and the assistant director of risk management and safety for Little League Intl., says that the security challenges for the competition are similar to any other large event - things such as parking issues and crowd control. “It sometimes becomes a carnival atmosphere here because we have a lot of local kids that come over, not necessarily to see the game, but to hang out with each other and stuff like that,” says Ferguson, who has headed up security operations for the LLWS for the past 25 years. “We face the same basic issues that everyone else does.”

According to Robert Muehlbauer, business development programs manager for Axis Communications, Ferguson and his team use a variety of different Axis cameras – pan/tilt/zoom, covert, thermal, etc. – during the series in addition to the nearly 90 existing cameras that are used at the facilities year-round.

“Since we’ve been doing this for five years now, we have an excellent understanding of the layout of the facility and their needs,” says Muehlbauer. “The weekend before the series starts, we send down a systems engineer to help with deployment. If you’ve watched (the LLWS) on TV, you know that Williamsport is a small town where this is the big event, and they don’t have a lot of security cameras up. They need a rapidly deployable IP-based system because they want to put up cameras that are unobtrusive, but at the same time provide secure entries and exits.”

Ferguson says there are several locations onsite where the video feeds come into, including a police substation at the stadium. Muehlbauer says that the cameras are integrated using the OnGuard video management system from Lenel, which is another of the LLWS’ security technology partners, along with Garrett Metal Detectors.

“(OnGuard) does both video management and access control,” says Muehlbauer. “All of the players have badges, and they all card-in to the facility. When they do, they have cameras where the access control cards are read so they get not only a picture of the player, but it is tied to video of the player walking through, giving them video verification as well as access control that’s tied to the Lenel system.”

Additionally, Muehlbauer says the scoreboard has been outfitted with a high-end, optical PTZ camera that can scan the entire crowd and help in situations where, for example, parents become separated from their children or vice versa. Axis thermal cameras are also being used to keep watch over player dormitories at the site.  

“They have to make sure that area is safe and secure, and they didn’t want to put up a bunch of flood lights,” says Muehlbauer. “They do have fences, but they used thermal cameras to augment them. They put the thermal cameras on the fence line and they run an analytic that can determine if there is a breach of that perimeter, which then sends an alarm event to the Lenel system.”

Muehlbauer says they also partnered with Extreme Networks to provide the wireless and wired network infrastructure for the surveillance cameras at this year’s series. “The cameras that are out on the scoreboard are sending the video back wirelessly to a mesh network into the command center,” he says. “Extreme Networks’ wireless mesh nodes enable better coverage in terms of the percentage of the facility.”

Given the international nature of the LLWS and ever-increasing interest in the event, Ferguson says local, state and federal law enforcement authorities are on the premises and that they are very proactive in their security preparations. And despite the slew of angry outbursts by parents at youth sporting events across the country in recent years, Ferguson says they haven’t experienced any such issues like this in Williamsport. “This usually is a fairly good place, and we haven’t had a lot of issues with parents at this level,” he says.

Ferguson says the cameras provided by Axis have proven to be a tremendous asset in that they can go back and review an incident to ensure it was handled properly and to also search for specific individuals. “If we’re looking for somebody or we get word that there is someone missing – we get a lot of young children that get misplaced at certain times – we can search for them,” he says. “The video technology is phenomenal.”