Safer Cities

Safer Cities

Sinaloa, Mexico sees connected cities as the proper alternative

In Sinaloa, Mexico, the state’s government views enhancing public safety and security as priority number one. Sinaloa’s climate and terrain are perfect for supporting its booming agricultural and industrial economy, and this prosperity is dependent on effective law enforcement efforts that combat the influence of powerful drug cartels entrenched within the region.

Culiacan is Sinaloa’s capital and largest city; more than 850,000 people live within the city and surrounding municipality. It is from there that M.C. Jose de Jesus Galvez, the state’s Secretary of Innovation and close aide to the governor, is busy at work creating the state’s first unified security solution that he hopes will become a model for all of Mexico.

All major cities in Sinaloa have been secured by citywide surveillance solutions for well over a decade. While these systems have been effective at the local level, the state recognized the need for a more secure, responsive environment capable of providing a single- seat view of their entire security domain.

The new statewide initiative seeks to combine these disparate citywide systems within a single platform, allowing for greater coordination between all municipalities and their law enforcement agencies.

Leveraging a Thin Client

As with many city and state governments, Culiacan and Sinaloa lacked extensive financial resources to pay for their security upgrade; yet it was not an option to consider any solution that required compromises in performance or reliability. Sinaloa’s solution is built upon Vicon’s new web-based VMS, Valerus.

“Making use of a thin client provides tremendous value,” said M.C. Galvez, one of the systems integrators involved in the project. “Using a traditional thick-client solution, the cost and hassle of maintaining current software on all monitoring stations is prohibitively expensive.

“In the past, every time an upgrade was released, we spent a lot of time and money bringing all of the system’s PCs up to speed. With the Valerus thin client, all of that has been eliminated. The only hardware that requires a software upgrade is the application server. The monitoring stations are always current and require no maintenance whatsoever.”

Galvez said that his security team “can access the platform from anywhere, from any computer. We’ve been able to use many of the computers we already had in place that were running Windows 7 or later, and we didn’t have to purchase any workstation/client licenses. This saves us a lot of money that can be reinvested in expanding coverage zones.”

Managing System Health

Keeping all cameras up and running is a challenge for any city. This is particularly true in Culiacan, where criminals regularly try to disable or remove them.

“We actually had a situation where a camera was installed at a traffic intersection, and by the time we got back to the command center to connect it to the VMS, it was already gone.” Vicon’s technical team said.

The software’s built-in health dashboard makes it easy to keep track of the status of all cameras, even in an installation of this size. It also provides performance data for all NVRs, the application server and transmission network.

“The monitoring dashboard helps us to identify bottlenecks, communication issues between cameras and NVRs and, most importantly, how much bandwidth we are consuming,” Galvez said.

It also supports the city in its frequent interactions with insurance companies.

“When a camera is taken out due to vandalism, we can prove to the insurance carrier that it was fully functional just prior to the incident.” Galvez said. “This makes it possible to get the camera replaced immediately.”

Added Value through Integrations

A statewide initiative required the ability to integrate with a wide range of software that could provide additional layers to surveillance operations.

License plate recognition (LPR) is one example of how this has been implemented. The city of Culiacan has more than 800 specialty cameras connected to its LPR system, made by Spain’s Neural Labs. License plates captured by these cameras are matched against a database within the Neural Labs software. If a suspicious vehicle is identified, corresponding video from surveillance cameras can be immediately called up and shared with law enforcement officers within the vicinity. In addition, the LPR video is stored within the Valerus system, where it can be archived alongside surveillance video for evidence when building a criminal case.

Integrations with other applications are also in the works. The use of facial recognition technology is high on the city’s priority list, as are sound sensor systems that can geo-locate the source of gun shots, and more widespread use of panic buttons throughout the community that can automate emergency response procedures and summon assistance from law enforcement.

Command and Control

As the capital of Sinaloa, Culiacan’s control center serves as a centralized coordination hub for security and life safety operations at the city, municipal and state levels. Capt. Victor Cisneros, director of C4 Command and Control Center, is head of this new, state-of-the-art facility, which features separate spaces for the various departments, each of which function autonomously.

Expansive video walls, recording servers and monitoring stations provide operators with access to all cameras within their respective domains. However, when necessary, the thin client makes it possible to share video across departments, facilitating more collaborative and successful response efforts.

For example, operators within the city’s equivalent of a 911 call center, although a separate division from the city police, can request access to cameras located within the vicinity of an emergency call, so as to share video with ambulance teams and other first responders being sent to the scene.

Next Steps

With about 1,800 cameras currently in place throughout Culiacan, combining surveillance and LPR systems, the city is well on its way to its vision of approximately 4,800 total cameras. In addition, work has begun in Mazatlan and Los Mochis, two other cities in Sinaloa, which will ultimately be part of the statewide network. “This is a very ambitious project for us,” Galvez said. “We hope to use every function of our new system to help lower the crime rate and better protect the citizens of Sinaloa. We understand that video isn’t the only way we will achieve this, but it’s a very important part and can help us bring other systems together to be more effective. We’re excited about the possibilities.”

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Security Today.

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