Jailhouse Rocks

Designed by architect James Reilly Gordon, circa 1911, the Bergen County Courthouse is an example of the Beaux Arts classicism that typifies the civic architecture of the period. Its imposing design reflects the pride and confidence in government that characterized public buildings in the early 20th century.

The Bergen County Jail in New Jersey serves the community as a central reception and processing center for pre-trial male and female adult detainees whose confinement is necessary to ensure a court appearance. The facility also provides for the detention of both sentenced and unsentenced prisoners in a minimum-, medium- and maximum-security environment.

Technology in the facility is state-of-the-art, featuring computer control of all inmate housing areas, an integrated perimeter security system, a site-wide duress/panic alarm system and a computerized control center.

However, the Bergen County courthouse and jail had some particular challenges that their coaxial (analog) cameras simply could not meet. For example, the coaxial cameras in the holding cells of the courthouse had software restrictions that did not allow for integration into the network. In addition, they wanted a more detailed view of the holding area. The jail also needed higher resolution images and cameras that could integrate with the network and open and close doors and gates, survey wider areas than current cameras and not be adversely affected by extreme temperature and weather conditions.

Bergen County officials chose MOBOTIX for their intelligent, advanced digital imaging and sturdy camera design to enable better overall surveillance of both the courthouse holding cell and the interior and exterior portions of the county jail.

Intelligent Installation
Bergen County purchased about 40 cameras, with the majority intended for use at the jail and the others at the courthouse. For security reasons, they are not able to disclose the locations of the cameras at the jail, but they are being used in both indoor and outdoors.

One of the things that impressed Bergen County officials most was the quality of the video surveillance camera’s high-resolution images.

“We had never seen such clear images from video surveillance cameras,” said Phil Lisk, director of information technologies for the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office. “This is important for both the courthouse and the jail, and one of the main reasons we chose these cameras.”

Image clarity provides intelligent IP video camera systems as opposed to the standard analog CCTV. Instead of the typical 288 vertical lines of resolution provided by recorded analog images, the new digital cameras offer up to1,536 lines and 1.3 to 3 megapixels of resolution, which is up to 30 times that of the analog standard currently offered in the industry.

Durable Design
Bergen County had particular concerns related to extremely cold temperatures and how that could affect outside cameras. The cameras purchased are built to withstand all sorts of weather conditions and hostile environments, from -22 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, without additional cooling or heating, allowing PoE all year long. The fiberglass reinforced cameras protect the network cable and connections against vandalism, as well as severe weather conditions. There is no worry in this case about deterioration due to camera lenses fogging over or the system getting damaged from the rain, heat or cold weather.

“It was a great relief to know these cameras would not require any additional maintenance in outdoor winter conditions, such as blowers or heaters,” Lisk said. “In a high-security environment, knowing that the cameras will be operative regardless of the elements is a crucial part of safe operations.”

Audio Features
The cameras have both audio and video features, introducing an interactive aspect that is a big advantage for Bergen County.

“In a corrections setting, you need to see and hear what’s going on, so this works very well for us,” Lisk said. The cameras also can be programmed to give an audio alert that warns away inmates, guards or other employees away from particular areas.”

The dual lens feature serves the Bergen County Jail’s need to cover large areas. It is essentially like having two cameras for the price of one with the added advantage of being able to view much wider or two separate areas. The technology allows this to happen without moving parts.

The system provides up to 30 times more detail than the average analog camera, and one camera can watch multiple targets, reducing the number of cameras required. Intelligent, direct storage management reduces the number of DVRs needed, and the overall cost of storage, by a ratio of 10 to 1. For Bergen County, this has translated into a higher level of safety and security at a lower cost.

In addition, due to the internal image buffering overcoming wireless fluctuations, the cameras fit well with the wireless mesh system the county uses in some outdoor settings. In this case, cameras set on telephone poles bring the signal back on a mesh network and can handle up to 25 MBps of data.

About the Author

Peter McKee is the international marketing director of MOBOTIX.

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