City Leverages Security

Benefits include 75 percent drop in criminal reports

The city of Selma, Ala., seamlessly manages a high-definition surveillance system by implementing control center network video management software (NVMS) with HD Stream Management. The city has installed more than 30 HD cameras, including ones to monitor the exterior of the George Washington Carver (GWC) complex and at police headquarters to monitor the parking lot, main lobby, booking rooms, holding cells, Magistrate’s Office and the Selma Municipal Court.

The Selma Police Department (SPD) also installed several video encoders to create a hybrid surveillance system that dramatically and cost-effectively improves the performance of its existing analog cameras. An HD camera also has been installed to monitor the mayor’s office at City Hall, storing up to 45 days of continuous surveillance video.

The HD surveillance system is monitored around-the-clock at both the Selma Police Department and GWC complex, a 215-apartment area with more than 500 residents.

With a city-wide HD surveillance system from Avigilon connected to the Selma Police Department and Selma Housing Authority (SHA), the city of Selma can ensure greater coverage and overall protection across the municipality. Since installing the Avigilon system, the city has seen a significant reduction in criminal activity at GWC—the number of criminal reports has dropped 75 percent, from 40 each week to less than 10.

Chief of Police William Riley said the Avigilon HD surveillance system is both 100 percent more reliable and more functional than the department’s previous analog-based system, becoming an important investigative tool. The Avigilon HD system is an open and scalable solution that allows the city to leverage its existing infrastructure and will easily grow, meeting evolving needs as the city moves forward with major expansion plans.

“Community safety is our primary goal, and we are committed to doing whatever is required to help us make our city a safer place to live, work and visit,” said Selma Mayor George Patrick Evans.

In the past, SDP responded to numerous reports of criminal activity and civil disobedience from parts of the city, including at the GWC complex. After a preliminary review of its security environment, city officials realized that more could be done to improve community safety.

“By deploying the Avigilon HD surveillance system at police headquarters and GWC, we have taken the first steps in boosting safety and reducing criminal activity in our community,” Riley said.

With the assistance of BlackBelt Technologies, a local telecommunication, security and management services firm, the city of Selma began to look for a surveillance solution that was robust.

Home to the largest historic district in the state of Alabama, Selma is the regional retail, medical, employment and cultural center for more than 80,000 people who live in Dallas, Perry, Wilcox and Lowndes counties. Additionally, the city is committed to ensuring the safety of its residents, businesses, and visitors.

SPD headquarters is a busy facility, managing the daily police work for the region and housing the Magistrate’s Office, the Selma Municipal Court, and the city’s parole and fine department. With such a high level of activity, ensuring staff and visitor safety is critical.

“We had an analog-based surveillance system that was unreliable and could not deliver the image clarity needed or scale to meet our growing needs, but we didn’t have unlimited funds to replace the system,” Riley said. “The Avigilon HD surveillance system has enabled us to build a hybrid system that leverages our existing camera infrastructure for cost-savings and major performance gains and will facilitate our migration to full high-definition surveillance in the future.

“As a budget-driven organization, we did not want to get locked into a closed, proprietary system that would lead to costly upgrades as we continue to expand. With strong expertise and an excellent understanding of our needs, BlackBelt Technologies recommended the Avigilon HD surveillance, and we have not looked back since.”

With no previous surveillance system at GWC, residents are now monitored 24 hours a day by staff at both SPD and GWC.

“Now, if the SPD receives a report from GWC, officers can review the surveillance footage in real-time to determine what resources are needed before dispatching an officer,” said Lola Rogers, director at the SHA. “The result is faster and more-effective crime management and prevention.”

City officials have been impressed with the image clarity and zooming capabilities of the Avigilon HD surveillance system both day and night.

“We can see minute detail—including license plate numbers— from more than 100 feet,” Riley said.

According to Riley and Rogers, the Avigilon HD system is userfriendly, making it easy to achieve maximum results.

“We simply have to click and point to operate the system and find what we are looking for, and switching from camera to camera is extremely straightforward,” Rogers said.

SPD officers also see the benefit to the new system. “Investigators love using the Avigilon HD surveillance system to track an incident onsite or at GWC,” Riley said. “In fact, if we get a report from GWC or the surrounding area, the first thing we do now is check the footage.”

With its previous analog-based system, SPD rarely reviewed surveillance footage for investigative purposes because it was not reliable. One month it would be operational, and the next two it would be down.

Because the system is so much easier to manage, maintenance costs have also been reduced.

“If our former system failed, we would have to send the old CPU out for maintenance, so we would often be without the system for weeks,” Riley said.

Selma officials have been impressed with the installation, training and ongoing support delivered by Avigilon and BlackBelt, whose expertise and responsiveness have further enriched the system’s manageability and performance.

In addition, SPD officers and administrative staff feel more secure at work since the new system was deployed.

“Anxiety levels have dropped, especially on court day when traffic increases, because staff knows that we can easily capture and review footage if an incident does occur,” Riley said.

Looking ahead, the city will develop new resources and build new facilities to further enrich the living and tourist experience.

“We plan to deploy the Avigilon HD surveillance system in all public places, including at our new waterfront park, walking trails, downtown and our schools to better protect and secure our entire community,” Riley said.

SPD also is rolling out a mobile computing platform to its 54 officers that will give them access to surveillance footage on laptops from any location.

Selma residents and visitors alike understand—and appreciate— the effort the city has made to preserve their safety.

“We can’t eliminate the criminal element entirely,” Evans said. “But with Avigilon, we have the tools to accurately identify suspects and successfully convict them, reducing crime and ultimately preventing the risk of repeat offenses for better overall community protection.”

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

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