Safer More Secure Campuses

Keeping a close eye on students, visitors, faculty members and campus property is a critical concern for today’s institutions

To enhance the quality of the educational experience as well as the safety of their students, many schools and universities today view campus safety as a top priority. However, large geographical footprints and the sheer number of areas to watch can make executing a comprehensive security plan a real challenge.

Fortunately, a growing number of schools are using their existing data networks to build state-of-the-art surveillance systems to optimize their campus security efforts. Through an integrated network of advanced IP video cameras, switches, software and storage, administrators can view activities in the classroom, laboratories, libraries, parking lots and common areas, as well as public arenas and dormitories—all in real time and with the ability to playback from archives. Networked IP cameras put more “eyes” on campus, helping to ensure greater peace of mind for district administrators, campus leaders, faculty and students alike.

Why Choose IP over Analog?

Today’s IP surveillance cameras offer tremendous benefits over traditional analog CCTV systems—notably, resolution up to 15 times higher than analog cameras and superior system installation flexibility and scalability. IP surveillance cameras:

  • Can be used with existing campus networks
  • Deliver better resolution and video quality
  • Offer easy user interface and configuration tools for lower maintenance costs
  • Enable school administrators to view, manage and record video either locally or remotely using standard Internet browsers
  • Offer built-in motion detection triggers
  • Can provide instant surveillance alerts and updates
  • Offer options for virtually every size budget

IP Surveillance’s Far-Reaching Benefits for Today’s Campuses:

Deter dark campus crime. When it’s after-hours—or the school is closed for seasonal/holiday breaks—bored students or local criminals may be tempted to vandalize school property, break into buildings and steal valuable items, including computers, sporting equipment, personal property or petty cash. IP surveillance systems are proven to be a strong deterrent to criminal activities and can help:

  • Deter or catch individuals in the act—identifying them with high-resolution images that can stand up in a court of law, if necessary
  • Protect a school’s financial investment in technology, equipment and resources
  • Increase security for schools that can’t afford security guards or don’t have community policing support
  • Optimize the efforts of security personnel, enabling them to view multiple locations at once and stretching budget dollars

An end-to-end IP surveillance solution includes IP cameras that offer the crime-fighting surveillance capabilities schools need. These cameras include night visibility, event-triggered recording, high-definition resolution and electronic tamper-detection systems that can sense whenever the camera has been redirected, de-focused, blocked or spray-painted and respond promptly with a visible or audible alarm. The IP surveillance solution also includes reliable switches that ensure 24/7 surveillance of traffic and scalable storage for reviewing footage recorded during off hours. With the right video storage solution, 30, 60 or even 90 days of video surveillance can be retained, aligning to most state and local laws governing surveillance video retention.

Monitor entrances, perimeters and parking lots. Schools are a hub of activity with not only students, teachers and faculty members moving about, but also parents, delivery personnel and unauthorized visitors. Well-positioned surveillance cameras are ideal for monitoring this movement and activity at the perimeter of the campus. After dark, this traffic occurs when fewer people are nearby, increasing the risk of theft or assault. Some schools also maintain day care programs with flexible morning and night hours for students with children. Those children and employees must be protected, as well, despite the fact that there are fewer campus “watch dogs” on site after-hours.

These everyday concerns are dramatically escalated for schools in high-crime urban districts. These schools not only need to protect students, faculty and staff members during their time on school grounds but also ensure their campus perimeters are free from loitering people and would-be criminals. To help, IP surveillance cameras:

  • Offer day/night capabilities, including WDR that prevents the sun from washing out images when cameras are watching entrance doors
  • Deliver special mounting options and hardware, including wireless mounting for light poles to monitor parking lots and rooftops
  • Provide greater peace of mind for students, faculty and staff
  • Monitor visitors, deliveries and other authorized but nonaccompanied traffic
  • Stream video footage to storage devices for archival/playback on demand, providing a record of all activity in the event of a security breach or emergency

Calm the halls, campus and cafeteria. Not only can IP cameras help maintain safety around campus, they also can discourage student misbehavior, including bullying, fighting and vandalism. In fact, conspicuously placed cameras have been shown to drastically reduce threats of violence and vandalism. Furthermore, in the event of an emergency or disaster, IP cameras can provide the exact whereabouts of students, staff and faculty by:

  • Maintaining a sense of order in heavily trafficked public areas and common spaces
  • Viewing even the darkest corners of campus, where trouble often brews
  • Reducing threats of violence and vandalism
  • Increasing a sense of protection among students and staff

IP cameras’ wide-angle lenses, high megapixel resolution, audio capabilities—while enable “live” listening—and motorized PTZ provide essential versatility and the level of detail needed for critical monitoring and identification.

Give district administrators hundreds of miles of visibility. Today’s IP surveillance systems typically are accessed and managed across the network, where the video—whether live or recorded— can be viewed or stored and reviewed remotely online. This flexible strategy is ideal for any multisite school district and allows school principals to view their own school and grounds, while enabling superintendents, campus security or even local law enforcement to likewise view any and all schools in the entire district. IP surveillance also can monitor district transportation centers, enabling administrators to keep a close eye on school buses, vans and valuable repair equipment.

Thanks to advanced software interfaces, modern IP surveillance and software solutions have truly come of age. Today these solutions can:

  • Provide online monitoring, through single or multiple viewing stations across a district
  • Enable real-time viewing of multiple locations on a mobile device, such as an iPhone or iPad
  • Deliver efficient storage and playback of video
  • Greatly expand the capabilities of a small staff and limited resources
  • Cover multiple buildings and locations under district governance
  • Offer (optional) shared viewing with local law enforcement

Maximize existing network infrastructure. For most schools, building a separate network to handle IP surveillance traffic can be prohibitively expensive, considering the additional hardware, cabling and installation costs as well as operating and maintenance costs.

However, schools that have used E-Rate or ARRA funds to upgrade their data networks can add a reliable, separate IP surveillance network to their existing local area network. The resulting hybrid network handles both data and surveillance traffic—a cost-saving strategy that’s ideal for budget-conscious school districts. And since the IP surveillance network resides on the existing LAN, it’s easier to deploy and manage.

Campus security and student safety are paramount. An existing LAN can be extended easily and cost-effectively with digital high-resolution IP cameras, network switches, storage and software to significantly improve campus security. Selecting a vendor partner that specializes in full solutions is a critical part of the equation and can ensure that a school’s end-to-end IP surveillance network performs efficiently for years to come.

A Case In Point

When the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHSC Houston) built a new 7,500-square-foot data center, part of the facility design included the need for security cameras.

“We wanted to see who’s coming and going in this high-value facility,” said Kevin Granhold, UTHSC Houston’s director of data center operations and support services. “We also needed to monitor entrances to remotely let people in if necessary.”

A security and surveillance solution allows the organization to record activities within the data center, review incidents, monitor who is performing what tasks throughout the day and keep track of the general coming and going of employees.

“We were looking for an enterprise solution to help us manage a few dozen cameras and assess any situation that might occur within the data center,” Granhold said. “We also needed to consider design issues with respect to wiring and camera placement.”

UTHSC evaluated the analog surveillance system used by the University of Texas at Houston Police Department and reviewed the associated costs. It also looked at technology issues such as optical and digital zoom and camera capabilities in certain lighting situations. The school’s research showed that network cameras would be much less expensive than analog, from both an equipment and wiring perspective. The university decided that it would need wired Ethernet cameras because it didn’t want to add power receptacles to accommodate wireless cameras. The school would be able to power wired Ethernet cameras with PoE technology.

“We made a strategic decision to use PoE rather than putting receptacles at each camera,” Granhold said. “From a cost perspective, it was definitely advantageous to go with PoE cameras using IP rather than your typical analog and cable cameras.”

After outlining options and conducting a site survey, recommendations were made to accommodate the university’s coverage needs and implement the proper cameras for specific applications.

UTHSC Houston purchased 30 network PoE cameras with a mix of digital and optical zoom. It tied the IP surveillance network together with a 24-port PoE switch and PoE adapters. This separate network links to the production network via one uplink. Keeping the video network separate provides a higher level of security, and IT staff can treat it as a distinct entity outside of the production network.

The system mostly is used for security and surveillance purposes, as opposed to monitoring student activity. Within weeks of the installation, the university was able to analyze a theft incident with the recordings. UTHSC Houston police have asked to view the recordings to examine incidents that have taken place on the property.

“I think it’s a really good tool,” Granhold said. “We have a really big investment in our data and equipment, so it’s necessary.”

This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of Security Today.

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