On the Tip of their Toes

On the Tip of their Toes

Fresno PD may have technology advantage in their backyard

No matter where any given city places a video surveillance camera, there are privacy concerns. There is, however, another side to the story. There are those community members who praise law enforcement for placing cameras in their neighborhoods for peace and security.

No one agency knows this better than the Fresno, Calif., Police Department, and within the department, Sgt. Steve Casto, who has been with the department for 21 years, and with the city’s FPD Crime Center team for the past five years. Casto and FPD may have a slight advantage because of a working relationship they have with nearby neighbors, Pelco, which is based in Clovis, Calif.

“We’ve been working with Pelco for the past 10 years, and to our advantage, have been able to test and try their newest and latest technology efforts,” Casto said. “We work very closely with Pelco on city video surveillance. We have placed cameras at many major intersections throughout the city, with a large concentration in downtown Fresno. Using crime data, we try and determine the best locations to place our cameras.

The city of Fresno is an interesting case study in city surveillance, to say the least. Law enforcement has about 200 of their own cameras that they monitor throughout the city, plus 250 cameras in traffic operations, plus, nearly 3,000 cameras associated with the Fresno Unified School District. They are able to stay on top of the surveillance, in large part, because of the video management software they use from Pelco, and because of their technology partnership with the Pelco advanced technology and engineering leadership team.

The VMS, VideoXpert, is the gateway whereby all network traffic passes, and is the portal that connects not only the cameras but other features the crime center has deployed. For instance, FPD has deployed ShotSpotter software and sensors in various neighborhoods in the city; places where law enforcement has identified active gangs or higher crime statistics. When a suspected gunshot is picked up by at least three of the sensors, it is triangulated to a specific location and police are able to respond much quicker. ShotSpotter is able to provide officers on the streets with real-time information, a map of the location and an audio file that can be played in the squad car.

“Beyond gathering and displaying information, a critical role of that VMS is to help contextualize information in a way that can be easily understood by officers, so they can respond quickly and effectively in an emergency situation,” said Ray Still, director of advanced technology & engineering at Pelco.

“We love to try this new technology,” Casto said. “We’re able to position our cameras in response to in-progress incidents, and when these images are viewed inside our crime center, we have real-time situational awareness of what is taking place in the city.”

Well, some of the city. Fresno has over 500,000 residents spread across a city covering more than 115 square miles.

“We enjoy having the FPD as a partner in technology development, and appreciate their interactive communications about product ideas,” Still said. “Our goal is to provide solutions with meaningful innovation when it is ready, and once we have tested it in the office. It is convenient that we have such a willing and informed partner, such as FPD, to work with.” With the partnership, there is a roadmap, including the development of the VMS and the cameras.

Cameras. Obviously cameras need to provide high quality video, with greater detail and clarity, to support the security mission of our customers. But, to better serve customers in the future, cameras will also need to provide a larger spectrum of information that is not readily apparent to human observers.

“Metadata provided by video analytics algorithms or thermographic information are examples in current use,” Still said. “But there are many other analytics that, to date, have not been used to their full extent.”

VMS. The answer is a roadmap that includes an increased focus on geographic awareness, mobility and automation. By combining these with an expanded spectrum of information provided by cameras, and leveraging deep learning capabilities, we will enable our customers to not only better detect security incidents, but also more effectively mobilize their resources to respond to those incidents.

Because the Fresno metropolitan area is so spread out, there are several public and private partnerships in the works, including local shopping complexes, universities, property developers and hospitals. The partnership with FPD is ongoing, as well as the department’s opportunity to continue its role as an incubator of new things coming down the road. Still said that much of the work they are doing with FPD should be completed by the end of the year. But, by then, the engineers, integrators and end users will have talked again, and the drawing board will be filled with new ideas.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Security Today.


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