Peace of Mind

One frame at a time

We have all heard of “tightening the belt” in tough economic times, but few can relate as well as the multitude of private, not-for-profit organizations that rely on public and private donations and grants for their annual budget. Jason Kunda, facility manger at the Employment Opportunity and Training Center (EOTC) in Scranton, Pa., knows firsthand the economic uncertainties faced by these groups.

As its name implies, EOTC’s mission is to help individuals gain economic selfsufficiency while promoting family stability. Integral to the organization’s family initiatives are parenting programs and child visitations supervised by agency staff.

“We determined a long time ago that we needed additional security for our staff as well as the individuals and families seeking our services,” Kunda said. “That security came in the form of cameras and recorders allowing us to keep an eye on happenings around our building.”

When the initial surveillance system was installed, EOTC was located in an area of Scranton known for its proliferation of criminal activity.

“Our building at the time was in a very tough neighborhood—one of the toughest in town,” Kunda said. “With our first system, we determined that we actually needed eight cameras—four outside and four inside our building—but we could only afford four cameras at the time, so we sacrificed and decided to put the four cameras inside so we could keep and eye on who was coming into our building. Adding cameras to the outside of our facility would have to wait until we received some additional funding.”

So goes the fluid nature of reliant funding. It would be six years before Kunda would be able to expand to a 16-camera system. While it was not feature- rich, it was well used.

“We were turning over footage to the police on a regular basis,” Kunda said. “We were capturing all kinds of crimes, car accidents, you name it. I will say that it was somewhat clumsy to use, but I learned how and was able to reproduce video, back stuff up, burn it to a DVD and send it off to whoever needed it.”

In 2011, EOTC was given the opportunity to relocate to a more spacious facility in a neighborhood less prone to violence and crime. The new facility, called the Seventh Avenue Center, is a 20,000-square-foot building housing not only EOTC and its Scranton Area Family Center, but also three other nonprofit organizations serving the greater Scranton area.

While the move was well received by staff and area residents, the organization’s DVR did not fare as well.

“The hard drive started to go out on our existing 16-camera system right before we made our move,” Kunda said. “It did not like the move at all. The wires connecting the hard drive came loose and we had to resolder and do all kinds of repairs, yet it would still not give us the playback that we were used to. So we said it’s time to get a new one. The timing couldn’t have been better because I was told by our budget office that we had some funding available to help with the transition to a better system.”

In the world of grant-based funding, there is a term called grant spend-downs. This is basically a “use-it-or-lose-it” situation related to funding. Toward the end of a grant period, if there is a surplus of funds identified as security money, those funds need to be spent or the agency runs the risk that subsequent grants might be reduced by a corresponding amount. This was the situation that Kunda found himself in at the time of his move—he needed to replace a failing recorder and had a new building and tenants that need to be protected.

“This is when I started researching alternative systems,” Kunda said. “I turned to the CCTV Forum, which I had been a member of since 2009, for recommendations and suggestions. It was here that an installer out of Vancouver, B.C., by the name of Matt Ion, who happens to be a moderator on the forum, suggested I look into 3xLOGIC. He mentioned that he had been installing them for quite some time and said they’re a really great hybrid system. I trusted his judgment because he had given me sound advice on other issues in the past.”

This introduction to 3xLOGIC was further enhanced when Kunda had the opportunity to demo the product, something that the other vendors bidding on his business did not offer.

“That is what really sealed the deal for me,” Kunda said. “It gave me the opportunity to get familiar with the product. I would do all kinds of make-believe situations and drills as if I were doing them at work. Everything seemed so natural and easy for me to use because it was so Windows friendly, especially SmartSearch.”

The research and feedback he received on the forum also confirmed Kunda’s strategy to migrate to megapixel IP cameras. Not only would they provide improved resolution over his existing analog cameras, they would also deliver more coverage with less cameras, making them a more economically justifiable acquisition.

“We knew that we wanted something with really good resolution,” Kunda said. “Megapixel cameras would give me the resolution I wanted, but I knew we could not afford 16 new cameras. We needed to start out slow and then grow into megapixel IP technology.”

Working directly with Brent Warzocha of Albany, N.Y.-based Security Integrations, Kunda found that 3xLOGIC’s VIGIL PRO-Series Hybrid DVR would not only protect his current analog camera investments but allow him to incorporate the latest high-resolution megapixel IP cameras into a unified surveillance solution that can be accessed and managed on site or remotely using his laptop or handheld device.

“Sometimes I’ll just check all our cameras real quick from home,” Kunda said. “Our staff, as well as our tenants and the other agencies in our building, all use the remote access capabilities. They use the system not only for security purposes— they rely on it to see when their clients arrive or where they are within the building.”

Incident investigation is another one of the requirements Kunda places on his surveillance system. Investigating thefts that reportedly took place both inside and outside EOTC’s headquarters is an-all-too common occurance.

“We had a situation where a client of one of our tenants parked in our parking lot and apparently left the car door unlocked, and while they were in their appointment, items were stolen from their car,” Kunda said. “This was an ideal situation for SmartSearch, where I can put a block on the car and search for motion only in that area. The search capabilities are so much easier to use than what I was used to. When you’ve got the police here and they’re standing over your shoulder, you want to look like you know what you’re doing. SmartSearch goes a long way in making that a reality.”

While the neighborhood has improved, the need for video surveillance continues. “It’s peace of mind for the staff, and it’s peace of mind for our tenants,” Kundasaid. “Our staff, as well as the tenants in our building—the other agencies— have come to rely on our system. If they see something illegal outside, they have the peace of mind to know that we have a very good system capable of capturing video and hopefully sending the message to criminals that we’re not going to tolerate it. We are going to deal with it, and we are going to deal with it real fast. And that’s what the system allows us to do.”

This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of Security Today.


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