Texas Border School District Upgrades Security from Analog to IP

Milestone Systems' open platform IP video management software (VMS) is the flexible foundation for continuing expansion by the Mission Consolidated Independent School District (Mission CISD) in South Texas. Their previous analog systems had too many limitations such as low resolution and stationary (fixed position) cameras that hampered investigations into incidences.

After five years of evaluating several internet protocol (IP) camera management software systems, the Board of Trustees for Mission CISD chose American Surveillance Company Inc. to assist with camera installations and a Milestone system configuration for a number of the school campuses. In 2011 they approved a $1.7 million Safety and Security Initiative to continue rolling it out in all locations.

In 2013, Mission CISD created a command center manned by certified technicians who maintain the cameras and ensure the servers are fully operational. Arecont Vision megapixel video cameras include 180 and 360-degree panoramic options and audio-enabled models, with motion detection, day/night functionality, vandal-resistant housings and remote focus/zoom.

As of early 2015 Mission CISD operated more than 600 IP cameras and 260 analog cameras, with encoders to convert analog video to digital. There is a dedicated server at each campus, with multiple servers in select locations. Perimeters are protected around each campus, and cameras are deployed at points of entry in school gymnasiums, cafeterias, libraries, hallways and playgrounds.

Mission CISD covers 41 square miles along the U.S.-Mexico border. It serves almost 16,000 students in four high schools, four junior high schools, 14 elementary schools and two special-needs schools, and includes administrative offices and several other departments. The district is supported by the Maintenance, Child Nutrition, Transportation, Warehouse and Technology Departments.

Open Platform Gives Big District Flexibility

Rene Flores is the Security Management Coordinator at Mission CISD. He looked at a number of VMS solutions that required them to purchase all the products as one package deal. The Milestone open platform software offered much more flexibility and choice.

"With Milestone, you're not tied to one vendor," Flores says. "We can choose different hardware for different campuses. This is great for us because each campus provides its own unique set of security challenges, and we need to have a system that's adaptable."

Another important criteria for Mission CISD was to accommodate an expanding school district.

"The Milestone open platform lets us easily add to and manage our system. It's both adaptive and very user friendly, which means we can add users when we need to with minimal training," reports Rene Flores. "We're building a new college learning center for the incoming school year, and we're remodeling an old high school and adding on to several other facilities. These will require new cameras and I want to get it right from the beginning. Using Milestone ensures that we have the infrastructure and software necessary to grow in a way that makes the most sense for our district."

Analog to IP: A Significant Upgrade

Jaime Escobedo is President and CEO of American Surveillance Company Inc. He says the power and clarity of the new cameras is a vast improvement over the previous analog hardware.

"Mission CISD has a complete field of view 100 percent of the time, with an important digital zoom capability for investigation needs," Escobedo says. "With one Arecont Vision camera, Mission CISD can now cover the same area as six or seven analog cameras used to. The resolution of the video now is so high that you can easily see all the details to help resolve disputes or handle situations both live and after the fact."

Another limitation with the district's analog system was it could not be accessed remotely, and the previous DVRs were not interconnected on a single system. The Milestone network video solution has resolved these issues.

"Milestone Federated Architecture is a critical tool," Flores says. "I can pull up the feed from any campus to see what's happening anytime, or troubleshoot a problem with a camera or a server - all from one convenient location."

The integrated map features lets Flores quickly toggle between different security points. In addition, he has Milestone Mobile activated on his phone so he can log in remotely.

"Most of the principals have Milestone Mobile on their laptops and have already asked to have it on their phones or iPads for the coming year. They're usually walking around their campus, checking in on different buildings so they want to be able to monitor security wherever they are, whether they're in their office or not," says Flores.

Working with Law Enforcement

Mission CISD covers the Mission, Palmhurst, Alton and McAllen police departments. Milestone allows Mission CISD to work seamlessly with the different police departments to assist them with investigations.

"Sometimes the police will contact us for access to videos for a case they're working on," Flores says. "They give us a date, timeframe and a brief idea of what they're looking for. We can drop the video into their desktop and the files are exported with a viewer. It's that easy."

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