City Surveillance Expert Says: Partnerships Growing Between Public and Private Security

There is no down time for a city. Facing very unique security and surveillance challenges, city assets include thousands and sometimes millions of people, government buildings, parks and residential infrastructure, transportation systems, malls, campuses and hospitals, to name a few. Law enforcement agencies rely on video surveillance systems to provide real-time alerts and situational awareness, recorded forensic evidence, and a visual deterrent to crime. Officials need extensive camera coverage and reliable monitoring to ensure that citizens and property are being protected.

Networked video surveillance, wireless technologies, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have all advanced connectivity greatly over the last few years. I had a chat with David King, City Surveillance and Critical Infrastructure Senior Sales Manager for Milestone Systems, North America, to learn more about how technology is impacting city surveillance – and particularly the evolving partnership between the public and private sectors.

David, you work with law enforcement on a daily basis. What are the biggest technology use trends you see regarding city surveillance?

Milestone Systems, David King, Open Platform CommunityThe number-one topic is that cities want to be able to access video and utilize cameras from the private sector. What this means is being able to access video feeds from convenience stores, shopping centers, movie theaters, churches, colleges, K-12 schools — anyplace where there are a lot of people gathering. In the event of an emergency, law enforcement wants to access any video possible and bring it to their command centers for situational awareness, so they can  respond and dispatch safely and appropriately.

Can you give an example of this type of shared video system?

Sure. There are a number of ways this can be done. Milestone is working on a handful of projects in Nevada where we’re using something called a Law Enforcement Video Gateway, which is a server that is paired with a recorder at a given location.

Whether IP, analog or hybrid, the server stores a couple of hours of video, then when an event happens, such as a robbery, and either a duress button is pressed or a 911 call comes in from that location, law enforcement is granted access to live video at the location or to look at the last two hours of stored video to see what happened.

There is a particular convenience store that experiences an armed robbery every week. Law enforcement installed one of these video gateways at the location, streaming 34 cameras back to the Fusion Center. When the next armed robbery happened, the duress button was hit, and law enforcement could see exactly what was going on, what the suspect looked like and what kind of vehicle he was driving.

Incorporating private video, with restrictions, makes sense. How is technology helping to extend this success?

Beyond setting up systems like this at predetermined locations – such as a convenience store – cities and law enforcement are looking for ways to access any available camera within an area or neighborhood.

Imagine a 911 call coming in, and based on the X/Y location and if there are cameras around – public or private – a system could automatically bring up surrounding cameras, providing situational awareness for law enforcement and/or early responders, if it’s something like a fire or accident.

Milestone as a partnership with a company call Sungard, who has made an integration with our video management software (VMS) and the Milestone Mobile client, where their system can push video information to the fusion center and, in turn, a dispatcher can push the video out to the in-car remote terminal of the officers responding to the situation. And if the officer is on foot, video can even be pushed to a remote device (smartphone or tablet).

What do these Command and Fusion Center displays look like?

Usually there are multiple Fusion Centers in a city, and that’s the beauty of the Milestone VMS platform. The Milestone XProtect Smart Wall allows users to create multiple command centers with shared, interactive data. As events are detected, the system will automatically grab available cameras in those locations and display the images to the operators.

front view, good colors

With sharing private and public video, there are privacy concerns, so you’re only going to allow law enforcement to see those images when a duress button is hit or a 911 call comes in. There’s no camera surfing involved, these are real-time responses to critical events. We can also create a dual authentication security layer, where dual log-in access is required for viewing, or where some cameras are only available at certain times of day, or only during public events, like at a school, for example.

Collecting data is one thing, how does all this information get organized to make it useful and immediate?

Back to our convenience store example, there’s a button under the counter. If the cashier feels threatened and hits the button, that alarm goes into the Milestone VMS at the local law enforcement video gateway, and  it sends out a signal to the command center that there is a silent alarm. This alarm also goes to 911 Dispatch so they can start sending people, and now there’s visibility from multiple levels. Dispatch and Fusion Center operators are monitoring the video, making decisions, and pushing the video information out to the squad car so they know in advance the situation they will face on arrival.

Ultimately, we’ll see all of these video and data sources come together within what are called Geospatial Mapping systems. For years, cities and law enforcement have relied on some form of PSIM (Physical Security Information Management) to keep officers informed. But the new geospatial mapping takes this concept to a whole new level. – David King, Senior Account Manager, City Surveillance & Critical Infrastructure

Geospatial mapping allows multiple agencies to input and capture video data, traffic conditions, officer GPS locations and more, all on a map, and layer that information with reported crimes, issued tickets, domestic violence calls and more. The result is a highly informative map of activity hot spots, allowing law enforcement to know how to respond to calls, and what they may be walking into. (Check out new Milestone Solution Partner Live Earth!)

We’re hearing a lot about Milestone Interconnect in city surveillance, can you explain what it is and how it’s being used?

Sure. Milestone Interconnect is a system that allows all XProtect embedded appliances to interconnect with XProtect Corporate. It allows users to create a central surveillance operation across geographically dispersed sites. This unifies video streams no matter where they come from and imposes the system’s customized permission parameters and passwords.

For example, we had a major national sporting event in Phoenix, and one of the interesting things is that law enforcement wanted to tie together and monitor all surrounding areas and towns. The easiest way was through the Milestone Interconnect license, where the Central Command was able to pull in video from Tempe, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, and incorporate it with video from the stadium, airport, convention center, nightlife areas — everything fed back to the command centers and the operators were looking at all the video, all in real time. We’re talking something like 2,800 cameras throughout the valley.

MoreThanSingleSiteSolutionMilestone Interconnect lets them tie in the private sector, the public sector, and whoever is running Milestone no matter the platform, back to a Fusion Center so they have the constant visibility. When we say the private sector, we’re talking about power companies, utilities, perhaps schools, hospitals, private companies and other critical assets that can share information and provide eyes on the street.

From body cameras and dash cams to installed cameras and drones, how does Milestone deal with the integration and analyses of traditional and emerging video or other data sources?

Milestone has always strived to be an open platform to work with such different integrations. It’s part of the Milestone DNA to be the open platform that can bring together many sources and share the data across multiple devices.

I’m on the city surveillance side, so drones have become a big part of the discussion. Being able to bring in video from drones or helicopters gives law enforcement huge visibility advantages. Imagine integrating this capability with another developing technology: high-altitude aircraft. Law enforcement can now deploy an unmanned aircraft with a 250-megapixel camera, high over a large public event, and stream images down to security personnel on the ground, providing the ultimate birds-eye view.

Let’s end on a personal note. What brought you to Milestone and why city surveillance?

There are many reasons. I enjoy the technology and it’s rewarding to apply it in situations that help people. But I would have to go back to a particular installation that’s probably the reason I’m in the industry.

Several years ago, the city of Phoenix was grappling with two horrible, on-going crime cases at the same time — the Baseline Killer/Rapist and a Serial Shooter. The city deployed a video surveillance system to monitor 10 square miles of the metro area to help solve those two crimes. The camera system didn’t catch the criminals directly, but it provided a level of coverage that freed up officers and resources to be able to track down both the Baseline Killer and the Serial Shooters. That had a huge impact on me.

Courtney PedersenBy Courtney Dillon Pedersen, Corporate Communications Manager, Milestone Systems