Clearing the Halls

Clearing the Halls

School district gets a clearer view with multi-megapixel cameras

The Edwardsville Community Unit School District, which encompasses 185 square miles of the suburban St. Louis town of Edwardsville, Ill., is one of the oldest school districts in the state. It serves 7,500 K-12 students at 14 schools.

Typically, the district has been relatively advanced in applying security technology. Starting in 2000, it installed analog cameras and VCRs for a video surveillance program. That technology soon proved insufficient for its needs, though, and in 2003 the district switched out the VCRs for DVRs and upgraded the analog camera technology, using encoders to connect existing analog cameras to the district’s expanding IP network.

“As new buildings came online we wanted to take advantage of and utilize the new technology that was available," said Director of Technology Bill Miener. By 2007, Edwardsville was ready to switch out its analog cameras and encoders and move to a completely IP-based video surveillance system. The district’s technology wish list included increased resolution, clarity and PoE capabilities available only from top-of-the-line megapixel IP cameras.

So Miener and his team started test-driving cameras from several different manufacturers, temporarily installing the hardware at several different campuses and evaluating the performance on their laptops. “After testing over several weeks, we concluded that we liked what the IQeye cameras offered, and they were affordable for the budget we had available at that time,” Meiner said.

Protection Inside and Out

The district started with 48 IQeye cameras. Now it has 471, two-thirds of which are indoor cameras. IQeye Sentinels are installed in the outdoor locations, and Alliance domes are installed indoors; resolutions for all the cameras range from 3 MP to 5 MP. Milestone open-platform software for IP network-based video surveillance manages the camera data.

Miener said the district’s old PTZ cameras started wearing out right about when the warranties expired. Rather than replace them with new PTZs, Edwardsville schools now install IQeye Sentinels in a special housing, each covering a 60-degree field of view. “The Sentinels— we love them,” Miener said. The district has also installed 24 Sentinels in its large sports complex in addition to the units in its school building.

During the school day, a security officer in each school monitors only local cameras, focusing on entrances/exits and doing a video “tour” throughout the building. Video is stored for seven to 10 days so security staff can review any incidents that may have transpired. In addition to monitoring at each school, at least three Edwardsville senior staff members can access all camera views whenever they need them.

The cameras act as a deterrent, as well, because the clear view means staff members can identify perpetrators and hold them accountable.

“We don’t have a lot of problems anymore because the troublemakers know about the cameras; it’s a very effective deterrent,” Miener said.

On top of all that, the switch to IP saved the school district money. It no longer has to pay for the maintenance on broken PTZs, and the smaller number of cameras translated into budget savings.

“In the past with our analog cameras, if we were more than 15 to 20 feet from the camera, identifying someone was hard,” Miener said.

“Once we went with multi-megapixel technology, it’s been a leap in capability. At 60 feet, we see exactly what happened. These cameras are three, four times more effective. That was amazing for us, and costeffective.”

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

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