IP video city surveillance expanded to optimize safety
- By Courtney Pedersen
- Oct 01, 2017
The city of Hartford, Conn., first began expanding and upgrading
its surveillance capabilities in 2013 with a new
Public Safety Complex and police headquarters. The city
enlisted Vulcan Security Technologies to implement a new
IP video system that could expand to include hundreds of cameras.
Due to its reliability and ability to integrate well with third-party
systems, Milestone XProtect Corporate video management software
(VMS) was selected, along with powerful Axis network cameras. The
system steadily expanded as cameras were added to monitor City
Hall, public parks and city streets. The Hartford Police Department
soon realized it needed a larger, centralized command station where
video could be managed and monitored to better assist officers on
Setting Up the Solution
In 2015, the Hartford Police Department established its Real-Time
Crime Center and Data Intelligence Center. Made possible by state
and federal grants and asset forfeiture, the Crime Center operated
out of a Chevrolet Tahoe for three years until the new location was
finished. Now housed in the former Hartford Police headquarters,
the Crime Center includes the Smart Wall with 30, 55-inch, 4K video
monitors. Each monitor is connected to a high-powered workstation,
which runs the Smart Client on every screen. The center is staffed
almost round-the-clock by three civilian crime analysts who monitor
the 450 Axis PTZ cameras located throughout the city.
Using Screen Capture, the analysts are able to view video, as well
as data feeds from the a gunshot detection system, 911 dispatch system
and social media mining tools that monitor potentially violent or
hostile events. The analysts use live information to assist officers with
crimes in progress and recordings forensically, to solve crimes after
the fact. Milestone Mobile was also rolled out to several officers and
detectives to record evidence from a crime scene or capture real-time
video of a crime in progress and relay it back to the crime center.
Additional cameras will continue to be rolled out in phases until the entire city is covered. The police department is also working with
Vulcan Security to explore the possibility of installing vehicle-level
surveillance using Axis F Series cameras, as well as integrating body
cameras. The expanded system will serve as a force multiplier for the
department. In turn, the department plans to staff the Center with 11
more analysts in the next few years.
The VMS combined with cameras provided a significant upgrade to
the Hartford Police Department’s ability to prevent and effectively respond
to incidents throughout the city. Milestone VMS is designed
with an open architecture, enabling powerful integrations with thirdparty
analytics software and technologies that help the police department
save time and maximize effectiveness.
With hundreds more cameras now in place, the police department
can view video from nearly the entire city. The responsive system
enables analysts to quickly pull up video and view images to assist
officers, whether they need to read a vehicle’s license plate or track
someone running down a street. In the future, city officials plan to
give local business owners and community groups the opportunity
to install Axis cameras at their facilities. Owners would then be able
to view video online, while officers and analysts would have access to
the video should an incident occur in the area.
Creating Endless Possibilities
Sgt. John Michael O’Hare is the director of the Hartford Real-Time
Crime Center. He worked with Tyler Cullen, director of information
technology at Vulcan Security Technologies, to select the Milestone
VMS solution that is in place today. The open platform gave the city
much more flexibility and allowed them to integrate with analytics
and other software platforms.
“There have been some good results and has great potential for integration
with the city’s data solutions,” Cullen said. “Once the cameras are
fully integrated there will be cameras on street corners to automatically
track the escape route of a shooter, in addition to other possibilities.”
The ability of the VMS to integrate with third-party systems was
key for the police department, which has recently expanded to include
every residential zone in the city limits. In addition to a number
of other forensics, the city uses real-time analytics on cameras at
public works buildings to detect objects left behind, potential threats,
or to track theft.
“We’re looking at ways to integrate our 911 dispatch system with
Smart Wall pop-up views so if something happens in a certain neighborhood
the cameras would automatically react based on the priority
of the call,” O’Hare said.
O’Hare is also working with Cullen to explore the option of controlling
the XProtect Smart Wall using voice and gesture activation by
using Microsoft Connect.
The Crime Center integrated BriefCam video synopsis into the
system, which helps law enforcement and security entities of any type
to extract valuable, actionable information from the video. BriefCam
enables rapid video review, search and analysis of video data for locating
events of interest more quickly than ever before.
“This has been a game changer for us. It’s helped us take our system
to the next level,” O’Hare said. “We can do things now that we
couldn’t do before. It allows us to take large volumes of video data and
examine it very quickly and share that information with our officers.”
O’Hare explained that the BriefCam analytics provide access to
information that they probably we would never have retrieved because
it would require someone to sit and watch many hours of video,
in real time.
“It would take us forever to discover and share video information,
and we can now do that in just minutes,” O’Hare said. “BriefCam
doesn’t replace cops on the street, but it arms them with immediate
intelligence that makes them that much more effective.”
Cullen added that integration was easy. A built-in net plugin allows
users to access the BriefCam module from within Smart Client.
This minimizes the system resource draw on the CPUs, and lets operators
accomplish many things from a single interface, saving a great
deal of valuable time.
Most recently, Cullen and his team have started integrating a system
called HawkEye Effect, which ties the VMS to the city’s existing
Shot Spotter system. When acoustically detected gunshots are detected,
HawkEye Effect takes the exact coordinates drives all positional
cameras in the vicinity either to predefined escape routes or right
onto the location where the shooting occurred.
“HawkEye Effect gives us a much better chance of catching a perpetrator
escaping the scene, either in a vehicle or on foot,” Cullen
said. “In certain scenarios, it could result in us actually spinning cameras
to view the aftermath of a shooting. It’s a powerful integration to
that wouldn’t be possible without the open platform.”
Preventing Incidents Before They Happen
The flexibility of the open platform has allowed the police department to set up temporary, pop-up command centers for major
events, including the Hartford Marathon and the city’s annual St.
Patrick’s Day Parade. At both events, temporary operational centers
were built around utility poles. The cameras were installed a
couple of days before the event, and were dismantled the day after
the event. During the marathon, trucks with cameras temporarily
installed on their sides were also used to obtain 360-degree, highresolution
coverage. Both deployments were extremely successful
at maintaining the safety of participants and spectators. The police
will continue to roll out pop-up centers at other public events in
A More Responsive System
O’Hare was first introduced to the VMS in 2008, and says he’s admired
the responsiveness of the system ever since. Now that his department
has the VMS in place, along the, he and his team of analysts
are fully realizing the importance of this solution.
“It’s a great hub for us and it’s been so reliable and quick with
everything we do,” O’Hare said. “That’s helpful when we need to
get a fast license plate or catch a shooter walking down a street.
Reactivity to me is the number one piece of the pie, and Milestone
is the best at it.”
Whether they need to track a stolen car or people out on the
street, O’Hare said their hub has worked perfectly for them, especially
with the Axis cameras providing crystal-clear images.
“We pass the information on to the guys on the ground with successful
results,” O’Hare said.
Easy to Manage and Take Video, Remotely
By implementing Mobile Client on smartphones and tablets, the
police department has given several officers the ability to view and
capture video easily on their mobile devices. They can quickly record
evidence from a crime scene or an event in-progress and transmit
it back to the Crime Center. The app gives him the ability to easily
record video with the phone’s camera if an incident were to arise in
“He has a dedicated channel that can be brought up on the display
in the Crime Center if a panic alarm is detected at City Hall,”
Working with the Community
The city is looking into a pilot program with Axis to roll out cameras
to small businesses and community groups throughout the city. The
city would subsidize the Axis cameras and enable Axis One Quick
Access technology, which would allow the video from the cameras
to be funneled back to the city’s servers and stripped of data and forensics.
“It will empower local small businesses to be able to deploy cameras
on their own networks,” Cullen said.
This would also give the police department the ability to view
video from these cameras should they receive a call about an event
happening in the area or to help solve a crime that has occurred.
This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Security Today.