Deterring Crime on Campus

The power of IP cameras

Over the past two decades, increasing crime and violence in American schools have highlighted the critical need for safer, more secure campuses. From K-12 schools to higher education campuses, school environments that are safe for students, staff and property are vital for learning. Yet for schools that have a large area with multiple buildings, ensuring safety and security aroundthe- clock in all corners of the campus can be a challenge.

Fortunately, a growing number of school districts and university campuses are turning to the latest security technology as a crucial tool in their arsenal against crime and violence. Many also are taking advantage of existing data networks to build state-of-theart IP surveillance networks that give security professionals and administrators eyes and ears on multiple areas of campus—from the crowded hallways and the cafeteria to remote areas of the parking lot.

These camera networks provide instant access to video of normal daily operations and incidents unfolding for prompt response. Thanks to video recording, schools also can speed the investigation and adjudication of specific incident—such as a fight in the parking lot, theft of an iPad from a locker or an argument between student and staff member.

Even schools that haven’t suffered serious security breaches in the past are proactively adopting state-of-the-art IP video surveillance solutions to ensure their peace of mind continues. One such campus is Blanco Independent School District (BISD) in Blanco, Texas.

Staying Proactive: One School’s Story

Although incidents of serious crime on campus have been rare in the past, Blanco ISD sought to lock-in tight security going forward and use modern technology to stay ahead of the curve. This meant installing a system that would monitor all its public facilities, including a high school, a middle school, an elementary school and shared administrative buildings spread across its 378-mile campus. When it received funding for a much-needed renovation, the campus decided that the time was right to beef up security.

Previously, Blanco’s campus had virtually no formal security beyond locked doors and yet, its campus renovations included a mission- style building that was originally built in 1874, now considered a historic site. The school district was also creating 16 new classrooms, a library, a technology lab and a science lab. Protecting all these assets was a priority.

At the end of 2011, Blanco ISD began shopping for a technology partner to help turn its IP surveillance vision into reality. Local technology reseller M&A Technology invited Tom Cozzi, BISD technology director, to attend a Lunch-n-Learn event hosted by D-Link, to learn more about the full scope of IP surveillance solutions. It was there that Cozzi met the local field support team and discovered the true value of next-generation network switches and IP cameras.

“My role is to give customers a wide variety of technology options and to determine the best fit for their specific application,” said Marc Steuwe, senior account manager at M&A Technology. “Part of the solutions recommendation was knowing about local support.”

After a competitive bid and careful evaluation of a few other solutions, the school district had full confidence in their purchase decision.

“Ironically, D-Link was not the most inexpensive bid,” Cozzi said. “Plus, I was impressed with the level of support I was already receiving from the local D-Link team.”

Optimizing Existing Data Networks

One benefit of IP surveillance is that it can cost-effectively merge with an existing data network. For example, managed switches from D-Link are embedded with Auto Surveillance VLAN technology, which enables users to easily add a reliable, separate IP surveillance network to an existing data network. The resulting hybrid network handles both data and surveillance traffic, saving the cost of deploying and maintaining a separate network for surveillance traffic only.

Such was the case at BISD, which already had a data network in place and simply needed to upgrade to managed switches in order to accommodate its new IP surveillance network traffic.

During installation, the school district replaced many of its former 10/100 MBps switches with new gigabit switches, providing extra value. Not only did it get new surveillance cameras, the district also upgraded the capacity and performance of its entire network and avoided the need to create a separate network just for camera footage.

Advantages of PoE

For BISD, one of the benefits of selecting this particular solution was the PoE cameras, enabling visual surveillance in areas where there is no power. This allows administrators to see even the most remote corners of their campuses.

Another key aspect of Blanco’s solution was managed gigabit PoE switches, which consolidate both camera power and video data into one network cable. This saves on installation materials and labor, and capitalizes on PoE’s low-voltage power. The switches also follow the 802.3af and 802.3at standards. D-Link’s DGS-3120 series managed switches were an attractive choice to BISD because they include a lifetime warranty.

Choosing PoE switches was a key factor in optimizing the district’s $100,000 project budget. Here’s why: PoE cable is a single, Cat-5 network cable that’s half the cost of combo power/coax cable used in traditional analog CCTV applications. Plus, the single, low-cost cable also offers the benefits of transmitting motion detection, video analytics, audio, alarm triggers and PTZ commands, all of which require separate additional cables in analog installations.

Furthermore, when PoE switches are configured for remote access, an administrator can log into the switch and turn off the power to one camera port from any remote location, including mobile devices without having to be on property or at the camera’s exact physical location.

Another Crucial Component: Video Management Software

Once an IP surveillance network is installed, managing all the video traffic efficiently from one central location becomes paramount, and finding the right capabilities is often unique to every user. Although there are a wide variety of VMS solutions on the market—each with different strengths—Blanco ISD chose SiteWatch (from San Antoniobased E-Watch) for three important benefits.

Bandwidth. SiteWatch software minimizes the bandwidth for the video signal through the network.

Virtualization. This solution allows users to link multiple servers at different locations together to create a single virtual string of servers.

Ease of use. SiteWatch provides an easy-to-use, intuitive user interface that allows administrators to clearly see surveillance footage from anywhere on campus.

More Eyes on Campus, More Security

Soon after BISD’s May 2012 installation, the school district was already capturing important surveillance footage. After a bathroom was vandalized, administrators were able to track time stamps from the nearby hallway, which led to the questioning of one student based on the amount of time he had spent in the bathroom. After knowing that he had been caught on camera, the student confessed to the crime.

Aside from vandalism, IP surveillance helped the school district provide visual evidence about disruptive student behavior and even local traffic accidents.

Today, Blanco’s high school secretary has a constant view of the front of the building and the main hallway. The middle school secretary, who could never see the front door before, now has a complete view of that area and can always see who is entering and exiting.

Remote Access Increases Ease of Use

“Not only does every workstation in the district have access to surveillance footage, I can also view footage remotely from home after hours, so if there’s anything going on campus at night, I can assess the situation,” Cozzi said. “If there’s criminal behavior involved, we can revert back to the archived video to assist with the investigation. There’s no doubt that having cameras in obvious locations has been a big deterrent.

“It’s comforting to know that we can see what’s going on now, and if people ask about our district’s security, we can say we have a top-ofthe- line surveillance system. We’ve now got full assurance that everything on campus is okay.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of Security Today.


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