Hitting a Home Run

Little League World Series uses network cameras to ensure athlete and spectator safety

Every August, the Little League International World Series brings more than 300,000 visitors to the small town of South Williamsport, Pa. With a population of 6,000, the community’s resources could easily be overwhelmed by providing ample security for athletes, visiting dignitaries and spectators. Even though the venue hires auxiliary security staff for the event and receives additional support from the FBI, the Bureau of Prisons and a host of other volunteers, Little League baseball believes that video surveillance is an essential element of its total security program.

For 12 years, Lenel Systems International, a Rochester, N.Y.-based provider of turnkey security systems, has donated products and services for the event’s access control and digital video security systems. The solution includes more than two dozen Axis Communications network cameras deployed around the stadiums and dormitory complex. Lenel’s intuitive video management system allows security staff to control the cameras remotely, spot suspicious packages and vehicles, help locate missing people and verify badge holders’ IDs when they swipe their access control cards.

In keeping with the carefree, family atmosphere of the Little League World Series, the subtle presence of video cameras has been instrumental in maintaining crowd control, finding lost children in a sea of spectators, preventing unauthorized entry into the dorms and measuring crowd size. With the advanced technology in place, the South Williamsport stadium transforms from a rural ball field into one of the safest sports venues in the country.

“Axis cameras are an integral part of our total security program,” said Jim Ferguson, director of security for Little League Baseball and Softball International. “Without them, ensuring the security and safety of our players and fans would be much more difficult.”

Protecting the Diamond
The Little League World Series -- the largest youth sports program in the world -- draws teams and families from around the globe, as well as high-profile spectators such as heads of state and international dignitaries. Keeping participants, family and fans safe during the two-week competition requires a massive coordinated effort involving local, state and federal law enforcement in addition to a contingency security force hired specifically to patrol the complex during the playoffs.

“We house our athletes on-site in the Dr. Creighton J. Hale International Grove, which includes dorms, dining halls and recreational facilities for players and coaches,” Ferguson said, “so we need to monitor our complex 24-7. Even with extra law enforcement and security in place, without video surveillance it would be impossible to maintain the level of security parents expect when they entrust their children to our care.”

To augment permanently installed Axis network cameras, Little League International relied on Lenel Systems to set up several dozen more network cameras donated by Axis Communications to expand surveillance during the series.

To cover the heavily wooded area surrounding the International Grove, Lenel installed AXIS Q1910-E thermal network cameras for fence line perimeter detection. To supplement guards, metal detectors and access control badges at the gates, Lenel integrated fixed-dome network cameras with an image database to verify the identity of cardholders.

Flagging Suspicious Behavior
Lenel also installed PTZ network cameras to continuously sweep the crowd, looking for potential hot spots, such as large groups congregating in a single area. High-powered optical zooms, coupled with Lenel’s On- Guard IntelligentVideo software, alert security to objects left behind -- such as a cooler near the bleachers -- enabling officers to scan video quickly, locate the owner in real time and identify the contents without having to raise an alarm.

“We treat these threats seriously,” Ferguson said. “But at the same time we don’t want to cause a panic or make people feel like they’ve entered a prison yard. This is a family-friendly venue. If we’re doing our job right, nobody should know we’re there.”

Lenel also deployed a number of network cameras with two-way audio that allows the operations center to communicate with security guards patrolling the premises.

“It bridges the gap between physical and electronic security,” Ferguson said.

Finding Lost Children
With the sheer volume of people attending every game, lost children and medical emergencies are bound to occur. Using video analytics, security searches camera feeds by clothing color and highlights anyone matching that description.

“We’ve actually been able to find quite a few missing people with the camera system before physical security guards were able to spot them,” Ferguson said. “It’s really reduced our time-to-find, which, I can assure you, is a big relief to anxious parents.”

Ahead of the Curve
“Every year we get bigger, better and more efficient,” Ferguson said.

This year Lenel rolled out Axis thermal cameras to spot intruders lurking in the shadows, Axis High PoE PTZ cameras for 360-degree endless pan and crystal-clear 35x optical zoom, and advanced analytics for tighter integration between surveillance and access control.

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Security Today.

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