Mission Possible

Technology upgrades heighten security on L.A.'s Skid Row

Los Angeles Mission, a nonprofit organization, serves the homeless living on the streets of downtown’s Hope Central (known as Skid Row). It is benefiting from a new IP video network that is centrally controlled by a video management system that encodes and integrates existing analog cameras. Installed by security integration specialists at ISO Integration, the new video surveillance system is designed for greater scalability, higher operational efficiency and excellent ease of use while also leveraging prior-installed analog video cameras to preserve the mission’s long-term security investment.

The challenge was to secure the mission’s indoor and outdoor premises and reduce crime to protect staff and property. The primary goal was to consolidate the three DVRs and the previously installed analog cameras to a single platform capable of long-term video storage; install additional IP cameras to increase protection for the mission’s kitchen, store room and perimeter; and maintain flexibility for future expansion.

In order to meet these challenges, L.A. Mission seamlessly manages nearly 75 cameras with the Avigilon HD surveillance system, using Avigilon control center network video management software with high-definition stream management and installed Avigilon high-definition cameras to monitor the building’s perimeter. Avigilon analog video encoders are designed to improve the performance of existing analog cameras, and the system is monitored from users’ desktops or remotely when necessary. The mission also stores 30- plus days of continuous surveillance video footage.

By delivering clear and identifiable images, the surveillance system has helped to reduce security management costs. Leveraging use of JPEG 2000 compression technology and advanced motion detection capabilities, the mission has been able to reduce storage costs and improve search capabilities for greater investigative success. This has allowed the organization to reduce crime-related incidents significantly.

Addressing Security Challenges
Founded in 1936, L.A. Mission has been located at three different addresses in its lifetime; from 1949 until January 1992, operations were based at 443 South Los Angeles Street. The current 156,000-square-foot facility, located at 303 East 5th Street, opened on Jan. 21, 1992. Because of the guidance and direction of both current and past leaders, the mission is fulfilling its mandate to reach those who are destitute and alone. Having begun as a small rescue mission, it is now among the nation’s largest service providers to the homeless.

The organization continues to provide hot meals, safe shelter, clothing, personal care and life-transforming long-term rehabilitation to hungry, hurting and homeless men, women and children.

“We are very pleased with our partnership with ISO Integration and the investment in this surveillance system to help us meet our security challenges,” said Ron Rector, vice president of facilities and operations at L.A. Mission.

“The system has improved our response time, decreased the time to search and save incidents, raised staff security awareness and is protecting the mission’s assets from theft and vandalism.

“The surveillance system has helped us secure the front of the building, where the highest level of activity occurs, as well as the kitchen and storage areas, where we have seen an immediate drop in theft.”

Located in the heart of L.A., the mission is ground zero for those in need.

“Our facility caters to the needs of the less fortunate and often desperate,” Rector said. “And as a result, the atmosphere can change without warning.”

After a string of thefts, Rector was given approval to upgrade from an old, unreliable, and ineffective analog-based surveillance system to the power and advanced functionality of the Avigilon HD Surveillance System.

“We use the Avigilon HD Surveillance System in forensic mode, so image clarity and advanced search functionality were key requirements. When we compared the Avigilon HD Surveillance System to our old analog-based system, it became very clear why we needed to make the change,” Rector said.

With the new video surveillance system installed, the mission also installed new IP video surveillance cameras alongside existing analog video cameras, integrating the new and legacy systems into a single unified control and monitoring platform that is highly scalable along various paths. Analog-to- IP video encoders were used to produce an IP stream from the analog cameras, facilitating integration with the new pure IP cameras. Repurposing the analog equipment protects and extends the mission’s prior investments and also serves as a “green” approach that keeps viable equipment in play rather than discarding it.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Security Today.

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