Educating Without Surveillance

Educating Without Surveillance

Administration commits to video solution on campus

Located in beautiful Mission Viejo, Calif., Saddleback College offers more than 300 associate’s degrees as well as academic and occupational certificates from 190 programs. With an enrollment of 40,000 students and 1,250 full- and part-time faculty members, Saddleback has an annual operating budget of $90 million.

This expansive campus has 54 buildings—encompassing 650,000 square feet—and includes an athletic stadium, golf driving range and a childcare center, but no video surveillance cameras.

With growing enrollments and increasing acts of violence on college and school campuses throughout the nation, the administration and board made the decision to deploy a video surveillance solution that would meet specific coverage goals: the childcare center, community education building and parking lot, physical education building, ATM machines and general coverage.

A Top Priority

According to Saddleback College Chief of Police, Christopher Wilkinson, the childcare center in particular was a top priority due to concerns related to the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy and other similar violent incidents.

“Because we have a very robust childcare program for our employees and students, we made it our first priority for camera deployment,” Wilkinson said. “We want to be proactive in the face of these vicious criminal acts that are becoming all too common at schools and colleges.”

Wilkinson said that they were specifically looking for a video management system that was compatible with access control, user friendly, expandable and turnkey, but also for a solution that, as an end user, “didn’t mean having to buy a large, pre-packaged set of options.”

The Solution of Choice

After thorough testing and evaluation at neighboring colleges, campus security officials choose Video Insight Video Management Software and Advidia IP video cameras.

“They were excellent cameras with a wide variety of choices, and were unbelievably affordable,” said Wilkinson.

Saddleback College participated in a Video Insight pilot program that provided free use of a few cameras and software.

The Video Insight VMS solution captures, manages and stores video surveillance across a network at a single location or at multiple locations, while supporting the broadest range of IP and analog camera models. It is feature rich, yet easy to use via a monitoring station, web client or mobile app. As the perfect choice for a VMS deployment, especially at Saddleback College whose end users consist of seasoned police officers accustomed to dealing with security and administrators who tend to be more occasional users, this solution requires little or no training and integrates with campus maps and existing legacy systems such as access control and active directory. Exciting new features like license plate recognition continue to put the software at the technological forefront of the VMS market.

The mix of day/night, PTZ and outdoor Advidia camera models provide coverage in Saddleback’s established priority areas—the childcare center, community education, PE buildings and campus ATMs. The system is so easy to use and deploy that Wilkinson managed the install himself.

“It’s been so officer friendly—I just sit at my desk, go on to the admin, go into the IP address and do it myself,” he said.

The VMS system operates on two, 48 GB Gateway processors on a rack in a secure, locked-down environment. Saddleback College is currently undergoing a fiber upgrade that will provide the VMS with its own dedicated system in the future. The Saddleback College Police Department monitors activity from a video wall consisting of two 52-inch monitors located in the dispatch center. There is an additional 52-inch monitor in the police officer’s report-writing room.

In addition to adding cameras throughout the campus for this deployment, Saddleback College has a sister school and a district office that will also undergo a VMS solution implementation.

“We are setting a standard to provide a uniform solution for all of our locations and are excited to be doing so with Video Insight and Advidia,” Wilkinson said.

A System of Many Uses

Chief Wilkinson said that he is very pleased with the video surveillance coverage and has even found additional uses for the system that he wasn’t expecting.

“We have placed four cameras at our Community Education Building so strategically that we achieve 360 degrees of coverage, providing us full coverage of the busy intersection located there,” Wilkinson said. “On the first day of school, we saw 21 vehicles run the stop sign at that location and were able to dispatch an officer to patrol that area and oversee traffic control.”

Another incident involved a student with a mental health issue wandering the campus. Saddleback College police officers were able to bring up an image of the student and email it to the health center at the other end of campus. The health center then shared the image with the campus medical staff, which resulted in locating the student and providing him with much needed assistance.

One of the best uses of the video system, according to Wilkinson, is the ability to incorporate speakers and audio, resulting in using the VMS and cameras as a public address system.

“The Advidia A-44 IR camera has the capability of audio in and audio out, so I purchased a group of those with the intent of putting them at the main public doors to buildings because the future here is access control. The speakers and cameras integrate with our access control, and when we have a lockdown situation, it allows us to communicate with our faculty.”

Wilkinson also uses the speakers for emergency management; for example, to announce an active shooter, shelter in place or weather threats.

“Implementing this public address system wasn’t the original intent of the system,” Wilkinson said. “But the software development worked to make it happen. I was beyond impressed. I had an idea as to how I wanted this public address audio to work with the Advidia cameras, and development made it happen. They didn’t have to. They already had my business and could very easily have said that the system just wasn’t developed to do that, but the software team went above and beyond in its customer service to make sure that we were a satisfied customer.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Security Today.

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