Wireless Video Surveillance Helping To Deter Crime In Ohio Neighborhood

Community redevelopment efforts in Columbus, Ohio have received a boost thanks to a newly installed wireless video surveillance system.

Funded by local nonprofit Columbus Compact Corp. and deployed along East Main Street by systems integrator E-One Companies, the installation uses wireless mesh technology from Firetide to network surveillance cameras that deter crime while improving the area’s image as an inviting place to do business and shop.

East Main Street, in the Near East neighborhood of Columbus, is an older city business corridor that declined in recent decades but is now on the upswing. In recent years, the public, nonprofit and private sectors have invested more than $9.7 million in new retail and residential developments. Revitalization efforts require public safety systems to keep pace, hence the choice to deploy wireless video surveillance.

“The camera doesn't blink. Whether you’re a merchant or a resident, we all have a stake in the success of Main Street when we turn off the lights and go home,” said Jonathan Beard, president and chief executive officer of Columbus Compact Corp. “The technology works and it is affordable. People are calling in criminal activity and mobilizing around the visible concerns in the area. They feel they can actually do something to address the problems.”

High-resolution, IP-based PTZ cameras are installed on six buildings between 17th Street and Wilson Ave. Each can record video of activities hundreds of feet away, with enough detail to identify faces and automobile license plate numbers. The cameras focus on public risk areas that are commonly troubled by incidents such as pan-handling, drug sales, prostitution, public drinking and loitering.

Los Gatos, Calif.-based Firetide’s wireless mesh technology delivers simultaneous live feeds from the cameras to a digital video recorder. Real-time feeds can also be monitored online by trained members of community watch groups who identify suspicious incidents and immediately notify the authorities. Ordinarily, networking along city streets poses costly technical challenges, such as the availability of network connections and power. Firetide wireless mesh technology, however, provides all the benefits of a high-performance network, including the capability to manage multiple evidence-grade live video streams without the need for costly cable.

“With the Firetide network, we are able to connect cameras along the street while sidestepping sticky issues of running cable building-to-building,” said Curtis Davis, president of E-One Companies. “Going wireless means dramatic savings in time and costs for Columbus over wired networks, which often require trenching ground and create traffic disruptions.”

Although the surveillance system is new, the testing period delivered a number of anecdotal successes. Local community activists recruited to help test the network called in tips to police about open-air drug dealing, public drinking and a domestic violence situation. Those experiences led to quick acceptance of the system among residents, and helped people feel they would contribute to creating a better community.

The system gained rapid acceptance from the local merchants, too. The Old National Road Business Association is partnering with Columbus Compact Corp., and area businesses have been inquiring about how they can become partners.

“Businesses that aren’t covered by the surveillance system are calling to ask how they can participate. We were quite surprised by the level of interest,” Beard said.

The Columbus Compact Corp. is impressed with the early results and already has plans to extend the system to other neighborhoods. The organization is encouraged that the City of Columbus is considering allocating $1.5 million for neighborhood cameras, and hopes an expansion of the Main Street program to serve a larger area qualifies for funding.

“This new deployment in Columbus is a success on several fronts,” said Bo Larsson, chief executive officer of Firetide. “This is a great example of how wireless technology can empower a community not only to ensure safety of its people and businesses, but also to come together for a common cause. Moreover, Firetide’s cost-effective technology allows communities to easily expand their networks over time and puts the latest in IP video surveillance tools within financial reach of every municipality across the country.”

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