Tackling the Challenges

Tackling the Challenges

Advanced video solution increases public safety

Like virtually every municipality across the country, Moreno Valley in Southern California’s Riverside County has faced budget and security challenges over the past decade. As a result of the downturn in the economy, funding for public services had been cut, forcing Moreno Valley’s Police Department to do more with less.

“The lingering economic recession forced cuts in all areas of our budget,” said Moreno Valley CIO Steve Hargis. “After years of dramatic reductions to all other programs, the City Council determined that there were no alternatives to reducing Police Department staffing in order to balance this year’s budget. The Council’s investment in video technology became even more beneficial when budget constraints reduced patrol officer staffing from 186 to 154 due to budget challenges.”

Addressing Concerns

To maximize the benefit of public safety resources, Moreno Valley needed to leverage the latest technology in city-wide wireless video to implement a municipal-wide system. Avrio RMS Group, a national leader in IP-video solutions for the public safety market, designed and installed a best of breed system for the city that consisted of an Ocularis VMS from OnSSI, IP cameras from Sony, data recording systems from Hitachi Data Systems and wireless technology from Fluidmesh Networks.

“We saw two major benefits to the Ocularis system,” Hargis said. “First, we prefer the licensing model that allows for unlimited concurrent users. In line with Metcalfe’s Law, we feel that our system is much more valuable by including as many users as we’d like. Second, we recognized that integrations between Ocularis and other third party systems would be more economical as they do not charge for a SDK license.

“The city had a clear understanding of what we wanted the system to accomplish, and recognized the need to outsource its design and deployment,” Hargis said. “We chose Avrio RMS Group based on their successful track record in city-wide video with municipalities around the country. Avrio offered a level of expertise in design, installation and maintenance of the system that met our city’s needs.”

Video cameras have been installed in public parks, busy intersections and other key locations throughout the City of Moreno Valley. The images captured at these locations are wirelessly transmitted to an aggregation point and then transmitted to a control center in the City’s public safety complex for monitoring and recording. Including the 48 existing cameras from the Moreno Valley Police Department (MVPD), the system features a total of 260 cameras. Three of the cameras are considered portable for rapid deployment and 209 are deployed as PODSS—portable overt digital surveillance systems.

Numbers Tell the Story

At each of the 74 locations where the PODs are located, the installation typically consists of a PTZ camera and one or two fixed cameras facing in opposite directions. The combination of fixed and PTZ cameras helps to ensure that the entire viewing area is covered. IP enabled speakers have also been installed at the camera locations within parks. If individuals are seen in a park after hours, an operator in the command and control room can log onto the particular speaker and announce their presence. The ability to conduct real time observation and take immediate action means law enforcement can provide an immediate on-site presence to help prevent incidents from escalating.

Previously, if a complaint were received about noise or rowdy behavior in a public park, police were dispatched to the scene. In these instances, not only were the police being taken away from what might be a higher priority response in another part of the city, the dispatched officer had limited information about what was taking place at the location. The new municipal video system resolves both of these issues by giving law enforcement eyes on the scene prior to responding. “The video system has proven to be a valuable tool for the police department, assisting in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of all sorts of crimes and accidents,” said Hargis.

The effectiveness of the municipal video system is further reflected in the metrics Moreno Valley has been keeping about criminal activity, and the number of cases solved with assistance from recorded footage. According to Sergeant Jim Rayls of the Moreno Valley Police Department, between April 2013 and March 2014, video assisted in the investigation of 203 separate crimes ranging from homicides to traffic accidents. “High definition quality video evidence from the camera system will also assist in prosecution of criminal cases,” said Rayls.

Intelligent Control

To achieve such a significant impact, video from the new cameras is recorded 24/7 in real time and then saved for a period of 30 days. While storage for such huge amounts of data is no longer so much of a financial or technological challenge, managing, accessing and using the video in an efficient and effective manner required a sophisticated VMS solution. The solution specified by Avrio RMS Group features OnSSI’s Ocularis video control and management platform to assure these goals were met.

Moreno Valley’s video system features two viewing locations—one in the Emergency Operation Center and the other in the Police Department. Video can be viewed at both locations and from different workstations, and operators can set up their views according to what they want to see. The Ocularis VMS features investigative tools to monitor and interrogate data, both live and recorded. Event management enables the operators to call up live images and to program automated rules-based alerts such as video push or email alerts to relevant staff.

“The operators have told us they find the Ocularis VMS easy to use and that its features are robust and very applicable to municipal video,” added Mark Jules, CEO of Avrio RMS Group. “In particular, the event driven alerts allow operators to handle more cameras, which help in maximizing resources and containing costs.”

Scalable and Future Ready

The video project was initially implemented to address immediate public safety concerns but ii soon became clear how much more the technology could be utilized. Jules mentions that the mobile features provided by Ocularis may allow first responder-type applications on tablets and smartphones.

The municipal system in Moreno Valley is currently tied into the traffic camera system, which includes cameras from its Public Works Department. These cameras are on a dedicated fiber network and are positioned to move differently. By having access to images from the traffic cameras as well as those from the municipal system, operators have a more complete view of city intersections. In potential future phases, the municipal video system may fully integrate with these and other critical systems such as the computer aided dispatch / 911.

“Ocularis’ advanced functionality and compatibility allow us to extend the reach of the network,” adds Jules. “We expect to have more cameras in public places as well as in private business or even in surrounding cities. Avrio RMS Group is reaching out to the business leaders and neighboring municipalities in the area to explain our vision of a video sharing program that will give the Police access to their cameras in real time in the event of an emergency. When businesses and surrounding cities come together to share video, our system will become even more efficient and criminals will have fewer places to hide.”

“Video is an important asset and with this system Moreno Valley has the option to leverage its existing investment by adding more cameras to the network with minimal incremental dollars,” said Hargis. “Because it is a wireless IP system, it’s relatively fast and easy to add cameras where they are needed in certain locations without having to cable or trench. It is also possible for video to be accessed from an existing camera that is owned by a different entity such as a school or business, giving us the potential capability to transmit real-time images from privately owned camera systems to the City’s monitoring center with a minimal additional investment,” concluded Hargis.

The city has a long-term vision for its video system that is widely encompassing of both the public and the private sector. “Our vision is for our camera system to include both private and other public sector (school district, JPA, utility) cameras with the same views as our existing cameras,” said Hargis. “We recognize the future potential to integrate into the Police CAD system so that priority events cause our cameras to come to the attention of people in the monitor room and cameras relevant to the event turn towards the event. At some point, our camera system may even offer immediate access to cameras all over the city, even inside a business, and allow officers to evaluate situations within seconds of dispatch receiving a call.”

Jules has some useful advice for other municipalities facing budget issues but looking to improve city-wide security. “Focus on access to power for every piece of equipment very early in the process. Also, it is important to know that agreements to place equipment on someone else’s land or buildings take longer to execute than you’d think, and the wireless design is likely to need equipment installed somewhere inconvenient. And last, agreements with state departments of transportation can easily take longer than a year to complete.”

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Security Today.

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