In-Car Video Storage

July 20, 2009
Placer County Sheriff’s Department Deploys High-Def Solution

In the 1850s, crime prevention in Placer County, Calif., involved jumping on a horse to track down claim jumpers in the area’s rich gold fields. A century and a half later, the county’s Sheriff’s Department uses 90 cars to patrol 1,400 square miles stretching from the outskirts of Sacramento through the Sierras and past Lake Tahoe to the Nevada border. The Placer County Sheriff’s Department is in the midst of a pilot project to install video cameras in patrol cars units using a High-Definition storage system from Pivot3 to manage, store and protect video files.

“We wanted a system that would work with our pilot project and then allow us to scale up in the future when we complete the full deployment,” says Jerry Silva, IT manager for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Services at Placer County.

The initial pilot has deployed Digital Safety Technologies Inc.’s (formerly known as Integrian) DigitalPatroller video equipment. Each car has three cameras, one pointing straight ahead, a second looking off to the right shoulder and a third capturing what takes place in the back seat. An on-board digital video recorder (DVR) continually captures the output of all three cameras.

Not all of that data, however, is retained. An event is triggered for retention based on software settings such as when the car exceeds a certain speed or the light bar is activated. Everything recorded up to 30 seconds prior to the initiation of the event is stored. When a car comes into headquarters, the system automatically establishes a connection with a wireless access point connected to the video storage system. The officer initiates the upload of the video, which, after upload confirmation, is then erased from the on-board DVR. All video files must be stored for at least a year. Those used as evidence in court are stored indefinitely. Silva estimates that the pilot would use about 20 TB of storage in the first year, later scaling up to 80 TB.

Placer purchased three Pivot3 Databanks with 36 TB of raw capacity. The Databanks reside in a single rack, together with two switches and a server running the Pivot3 storage management software. The county contracted with integrator All Lines Supply to install the system. Tony Montalban, a systems engineer for Pivot3, also assisted with the installation and training. “The system is simple and automated, and it lets the surveillance technicians focus on protecting the environment rather than learning a complex technology,” Montalban says.

Proving that users can install large-scale storage, Kevin Davis, the Sheriff's Department's IT analyst, completed most of the setup, including assigning the IP addresses, creating the arrays and the storage volumes. “Start to finish, I was done in only a few hours,” he says. “A few hours of training, and a couple of hours to unbox the equipment and set it up, and I was up and running.”

Once funding comes in, the county plans to add another 60 TB of storage to the system to install cameras in all cars. It is also looking at using the storage array to hold other types of files like backup files, and is considering installing a separate system for the jail video surveillance system.