Shining the Spotlight on Security Innovation First Runner-Up: The City of Los Angeles, CA

Oct. 27, 2008
A fully integrated system takes this city’s security from antiquated to extraordinary.

Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, has more than 900 government buildings and facilities spread out over hundreds of square miles. These facilities range in size and function from city-sponsored day-care centers, to the iconic City Hall, to the Los Angeles Zoo and Observatory.

The City of L.A. maintained an uncoordinated, rather antiquated system of video surveillance for its buildings and facilities. As then security director, Dwayne Healy, put it, “In 2001, we had very little by way of security. There was localized recording, analog matrixes, and black-and-white cameras that weren’t doing the job.”

The city had minimal video coverage in the main Civic Center area and no comprehensive, central surveillance coverage and monitoring. Access control was managed and monitored department by department, and if there were multiple departments in one building, it was quite possible there were multiple access control systems with little or no exchange of information.
The 9/11 tragedy cast in stark relief the critical need to integrate all the city’s security systems and response protocols and bring them under one roof to enhance control and overall effectiveness.

Goals: Coordination and Effectiveness
Using a combination of Urban Area Security Initiative, Department of Homeland Security, and City of L.A. general funds, L.A. embarked on a security system overhaul and expansion designed to give each of its departments the freedom to manage their own areas and security resources within established parameters, but also to allow for central oversight, intervention, and control when necessary.
Los Angeles maintained a robust fiber network, and this infrastructure would serve as the starting point for creating a new city-wide security system to cover the widespread buildings and facilities with security needs ranging from minimal to extensive. In addition to integrating new security systems, Los Angeles would embark on a project to integrate unconnected agencies and personnel to achieve more coordinated, effective procedures and response.

Rule-Based Enterprise Platform
Starting in 2002, city officials, with Dwayne Healy in the lead, began researching available technologies to assist in their ambitious security overhaul. Healy knew early on that video would be central to their plans, and the choice of video management system would set the direction for the entire project. After being introduced to the DVTel intelligent Security Operations Center (iSOC) platform by their consultant, TRC Security, and integrator, RD Systems Inc., they were impressed with the performance and the possibilities.

The iSOC is a full-featured, enterprise-wide intelligent security platform that comprises a traditional DVR, matrix switch and multiplexer in a single, software-based product. The iSOC is based on a distributed architecture, so the city could leverage existing analog products and networking, computer and storage infrastructure. It is a rule-based platform that gives the user the power to acquire information in video, audio or data format; administer and analyze this information; and then take appropriate, timely action.

Each Department a Customer
The iSOC’s open architecture lent itself to integration with a number of other critical security systems to ensure an effective, comprehensive security solution.
Chris Gustafson of RD Systems described the overall project goal: “Each city department would become a customer of the enterprise system. The General Services Department (GSD) could provide overall control and backup, with each department maintaining primary control while still being part of a larger system. This way in the event of a major situation, the GSD could lock down the entire city, comprising roughly 40 departments and 40,000-plus employees.”

All equipment and data runs over the city’s dedicated fiber backbone. This allows for easy, cost-effective installation with short cable runs. In fact, a sensor device or camera can be located anywhere along the network, facilitating the movement of devices and bringing new locations onto the system quickly and easily.

Two-Man Command Center
Upon project completion, the central command center will monitor more than 1,000 cameras and an enormous amount of sensor data—fire alarms, intrusion alarms, access control information, and assistance boxes and intercoms—from hundreds of buildings and facilities.

The command center is dominated by six DLP rear-projection screens that provide ever-changing views of between one and 16 cameras, interactive location maps, and other data. Dispatch personnel also have their computer monitor output and various audio, alarms, and other data at their fingertips.

The command and control center is staffed by only two dispatchers and one security staff member. The center operates 24 hours a day, providing redundant monitoring and management for remote stations during regular work hours and switching over to primary responder when security personnel are not present and for all locations without local security.

Local and Centralized Control
Los Angeles standardized on the General Electric Diamond II access control system. Under the new system design, each department has a controller that monitors the shell (from outside in) of the building. Once inside, there is another controller that, while part of the GSD centralized system, enables local department control, with the GSD providing back-up monitoring. After hours, the GSD monitors and controls everything.

Graphical Interfaces
In addition to the DVTel graphical user interface (GUI) control screens, the city is using Redstone Command and Control software to coordinate and manage all the data flowing into the command center. With Redstone, when an alarm comes in, the dispatch officer pulls up the appropriate map, locates the flashing icon, clicks the appropriate displayed camera icon, and is then able to evaluate the situation and take appropriate action. All other alarms, intercoms, and assistance call boxes flow into the center through the Redstone software for evaluation and response.

Cameras with Backing
CCTV digital cameras are at the heart of Los Angeles’ system, both outdoors and indoors. Outdoors, the city has selected Pelco PTZ color CCD cameras in remotely controlled, weatherproofed and hardened housing. Inside, the norm is fixed cameras, except in large areas where PTZ significantly improves the field of vision.

“We selected Pelco PTZs because of their reputation, plus the fact that they’re manufactured in central California and backed by a 24-hour turnaround for repairs,” said Gustafson. “If one goes down and we don’t have a backup in stock, we can still count on it being up and running within two days.” Indoors, the city is using a combination of Pelco and Panasonic cameras.

Plenty of Storage
The server room located next to the command center offers 3 TB of storage, capable of providing 45 to 60 days short-term storage for immediate recall. Long-term storage is also available via a networked Sun Microsystems digital tape library.

A Complete Solution
Even with the large and growing number of cameras, the expansive coverage area, and all that data, the city has managed to keep things simple and highly functional. “The level of integration between DVTel, the GE Diamond II, and the Redstone software is quite impressive,” said Healy. “Along with the DVTel system’s high-level capabilities, we also get some very practical functionality—an outstanding GUI; very intuitive, interactive operation; and excellent flexibility so our officers can use either a keyboard or a mouse. The officer’s computer prowess is virtually taken out of the equation. We need both high-level future integration and a system our staff can effectively use right now.”

Bruce Doneff DVTel Public Relations; Dwayne Healy, is the former Security Administrator, City of Los Angeles; and Gary Newton, Office of Public Safety, City of Los Angeles