A Secure Selection

Video solution cuts down on university's costly thefts

The University of Buffalo has a widely distributed multicampus environment with varied security needs in different departments. A video solution was critical at the university.

Both theft and vandalism can incur huge costs, and security for widespread locations has been costly to manage with DVRs. These challenges were met with Milestone’s AProtect Enterprise IP video management sysem. The surveillance hardware is a best-of-breed mix of Axis 216 and Sony DFN-40 network cameras, with Pelco analog cameras that are converted to digital through Axis 240Q video servers into the IP software.

Bring all this technology together, and the University of Buffalo has gained flexibility and scalability, centralized administration with decentralized access for use of the system, wide geographic distribution, PoE hardware and cost efficiencies of using the standard IT resources—equipment and network infrastructure—as well as the IT department’s expertise and maintenance routines for keeping the system up and running or expanding as needed.

Food, Vending Thefts
The campus dining and food shops serve 5,000 faculty members and 25,000 students. In addition to serving up to 60,000 meals a day, there are hundreds of vending machines, some in remote locations—all of which accept cash and campus cards. The University of Buffalo campuses handle more than $2.5 million a year in vending.

“Because we operate as a business, we’ve always had more money available than any other department,” said Keith Curtachio, Faculty Student Association director of IT. “We’re spread out across multiple campuses with 21 operations, and the amount of goods stocked for these, for which we have to transport cash, gives us a greater risk for theft. For years, we were the only ones with alarms for security. We also were the first department to put in surveillance.”

Drawbacks to VCRs, DVRs
“When we first put the VCRs into the convenience stores back in the 1990s, it was such a time-consuming job to look back through the tapes,” Curtachio said. “Their value is so low for the work required and the poor quality of the results. We moved to DVRs after that, but their cost is extreme.”

Now, as the university’s DVRs die, they switch to the IP network approach with Milestone software managing Axis network cameras or by converting the Pelco analog cameras to digital with Axis video servers.

Curtachio immediately understood the scalability advantages of going with an IP approach when he saw a 2004 presentation on a Milestone/Axis installation in the South Campus Medical department. The installation, completed by Mike Blumenson, was then done by Digital Surveillance Systems. Blumenson has been helping the University of Buffalo slowly roll out IP video since then.

Leap of Faith
Curtachio was asked to install numerous cameras all at once. By doing the math, he quickly surmised it was worth taking a leap to IP. More important, it was the back-up procedure routine. DVRs would be lost, and drives would get fried.

Once a DVR failed, it was taken out of service and shipped back to the manufacturer. But the system would lose up to 30 days of data because there is no redundancy or back-up of data. Curtachio said it happened a few times, and, when they were asked for evidence and could not provide it, there was a problem.

Vandalism makes up the majority of the university’s problems with crimes like theft occurring primarily at night.

“At one particular set of machines where we had just installed the new system, we could see someone in action,” Curtachio said. “These pros were known to the university police, who shared the evidence with the Buffalo city police.”

Curtachio said there have been many arrests and convictions over the past several years thanks to this system.

Most of the cameras at the University of Buffalo are Axis 216 models that are PoE—a technology that enables power to be provided to the network device, such as an IP phone or a network camera, using the same cable used for network connections. This eliminates the need for power outlets at the camera locations.

Curtachio said he really enjoys the Axis PoE camera because of the ease of install and its reliability. PoE also has found a permanent home, because the university uses it for everything. All vending machines on campus also are switching to Ethernet technology for the card readers.

An install is easily and quickly completed with a patch cable, and power is received from the back of the vending machines using a power injector. The cameras run whenever needed. A power take-off cable works with a native power supply in the machines.

Catching the Culprits
Curtachio said the university also has installed inexpensive, disposable analog infrared cameras inside the vending machines. The video is digitalized through the axis video servers, which can be viewed and archived in the XProtect software.

If someone opens the machines by breaking the door, the motion triggers video recording. It also sends an alert to the campus police.

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