Texas City Expands Business Surveillance Capabilities
- By Laura Williams
- Mar 22, 2011
The city of Addison, Texas, boasts
that it has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the United States. While it may be difficult claim to verify, hundreds of businesses have taken root in the North Texas city, among them a throng of retail outlets and restaurants.
Those businesses now have a way to transfer live surveillance video to the police when suspicious activity occurs. The Addison police department is the first in the country to partner with Stealth Monitoring, a surveillance monitoring company that will give the department limited access to feeds from the Addison video surveillance systems it watches.
Here’s how it works: Local businesses contract with Stealth Monitoring to install surveillance systems, which comprise analog and IP cameras. On top of buying the surveillance system, businesses can subscribe to the company’s monitoring service. Subscriber businesses transmit a video feed from their surveillance cameras to Stealth’s central operations center in its Dallas headquarters, where a team examines the live video for suspicious behavior.
“The target market is outdoor assets and companies who have guard expenses, because we’re really providing a virtual guard service,” said Rick Charney, the company’s sales manager.
When a team member detects suspect activity, he or she can “push” the live video feed to display screens in the Addison dispatch center, where a police dispatcher can send officers to the location to stop an event in progress.
“We only send real-time video to the dispatch office when there is suspicious or unusual activity, which potentially could be before a burglary or incidents of criminal activity occur,” Charney said. “Our goal is to give the police department more time and information when responding.”
Soon, the company will have the ability to push video to officers’ smartphones, so they can personally monitor the situation before they get to the scene.
The police like it because it gives them an extra set of eyes they wouldn’t otherwise have. “It’s a good example of how to use that technology to put your officers where they need to be,” said Addison Police spokesman David Margulies. “It’s a good way to use limited resources.”
“It’s also good for officer safety because the officers know more about what they’re responding to because the video is pushed to our dispatchers, who can tell them about the surrounding areas.”
The reach of the system’s capabilities, however, depends on businesses contracting with the monitoring company. “There are not that many cameras yet. It will be up to businesses in Addison to add cameras and let Stealth Monitoring send us the video,” said Margulies. “We’re not marketing for Stealth. If businesses think it’s a good idea and want to use that technology, then obviously it’s available to them.”
Bob Baumann owns Edward Baumann Clothiers and estimated that his physical property – 9,000 square feet across a three-story building in the main part of Addison – is worth at least $1 million. Although he likes the idea of police being able to see what’s going on around his store – which is located next to a bus stop that he said has increased crime in the area – he is a little skeptical that the monitoring service would be able to push the video to the police in time for them to respond adequately.
“How many people are really monitoring this video? If they’ve got 10,000 cameras to look at, how many alarms do they have going off?” he said. “I could see [this type of system] being an advantage. … But if you have good alarms and people know your place is monitored because you have a sign in the window, with 99 out of 100 robbers, they’re out of there. They’re not going to sit there while the alarms go off, they’re going to leave.”
If business owners do decide they want this system, Margulies said that Addison is uniquely positioned to implement it. It’s a small city– the Census Bureau estimated its 2009 population to be 14,315 – which means that it can make changes such as this one rather quickly when the community desires it.
“If you were talking to a much bigger police department, it would be a much more complicated process than it would be for Addison,” Margulies said.