Minimize Crime

Minimize Crime

IP video city surveillance expanded to optimize safety

The city of Hartford, Conn., first began expanding and upgrading its surveillance capabilities in 2013 with a new Public Safety Complex and police headquarters. The city enlisted Vulcan Security Technologies to implement a new IP video system that could expand to include hundreds of cameras. Due to its reliability and ability to integrate well with third-party systems, Milestone XProtect Corporate video management software (VMS) was selected, along with powerful Axis network cameras. The system steadily expanded as cameras were added to monitor City Hall, public parks and city streets. The Hartford Police Department soon realized it needed a larger, centralized command station where video could be managed and monitored to better assist officers on the street.

Setting Up the Solution

In 2015, the Hartford Police Department established its Real-Time Crime Center and Data Intelligence Center. Made possible by state and federal grants and asset forfeiture, the Crime Center operated out of a Chevrolet Tahoe for three years until the new location was finished. Now housed in the former Hartford Police headquarters, the Crime Center includes the Smart Wall with 30, 55-inch, 4K video monitors. Each monitor is connected to a high-powered workstation, which runs the Smart Client on every screen. The center is staffed almost round-the-clock by three civilian crime analysts who monitor the 450 Axis PTZ cameras located throughout the city.

Using Screen Capture, the analysts are able to view video, as well as data feeds from the a gunshot detection system, 911 dispatch system and social media mining tools that monitor potentially violent or hostile events. The analysts use live information to assist officers with crimes in progress and recordings forensically, to solve crimes after the fact. Milestone Mobile was also rolled out to several officers and detectives to record evidence from a crime scene or capture real-time video of a crime in progress and relay it back to the crime center.

Additional cameras will continue to be rolled out in phases until the entire city is covered. The police department is also working with Vulcan Security to explore the possibility of installing vehicle-level surveillance using Axis F Series cameras, as well as integrating body cameras. The expanded system will serve as a force multiplier for the department. In turn, the department plans to staff the Center with 11 more analysts in the next few years.

Significant Upgrades

The VMS combined with cameras provided a significant upgrade to the Hartford Police Department’s ability to prevent and effectively respond to incidents throughout the city. Milestone VMS is designed with an open architecture, enabling powerful integrations with thirdparty analytics software and technologies that help the police department save time and maximize effectiveness.

With hundreds more cameras now in place, the police department can view video from nearly the entire city. The responsive system enables analysts to quickly pull up video and view images to assist officers, whether they need to read a vehicle’s license plate or track someone running down a street. In the future, city officials plan to give local business owners and community groups the opportunity to install Axis cameras at their facilities. Owners would then be able to view video online, while officers and analysts would have access to the video should an incident occur in the area.

Creating Endless Possibilities

Sgt. John Michael O’Hare is the director of the Hartford Real-Time Crime Center. He worked with Tyler Cullen, director of information technology at Vulcan Security Technologies, to select the Milestone VMS solution that is in place today. The open platform gave the city much more flexibility and allowed them to integrate with analytics and other software platforms.

“There have been some good results and has great potential for integration with the city’s data solutions,” Cullen said. “Once the cameras are fully integrated there will be cameras on street corners to automatically track the escape route of a shooter, in addition to other possibilities.”

The ability of the VMS to integrate with third-party systems was key for the police department, which has recently expanded to include every residential zone in the city limits. In addition to a number of other forensics, the city uses real-time analytics on cameras at public works buildings to detect objects left behind, potential threats, or to track theft.

“We’re looking at ways to integrate our 911 dispatch system with Smart Wall pop-up views so if something happens in a certain neighborhood the cameras would automatically react based on the priority of the call,” O’Hare said.

O’Hare is also working with Cullen to explore the option of controlling the XProtect Smart Wall using voice and gesture activation by using Microsoft Connect.

The Crime Center integrated BriefCam video synopsis into the system, which helps law enforcement and security entities of any type to extract valuable, actionable information from the video. BriefCam enables rapid video review, search and analysis of video data for locating events of interest more quickly than ever before.

“This has been a game changer for us. It’s helped us take our system to the next level,” O’Hare said. “We can do things now that we couldn’t do before. It allows us to take large volumes of video data and examine it very quickly and share that information with our officers.”

O’Hare explained that the BriefCam analytics provide access to information that they probably we would never have retrieved because it would require someone to sit and watch many hours of video, in real time.

“It would take us forever to discover and share video information, and we can now do that in just minutes,” O’Hare said. “BriefCam doesn’t replace cops on the street, but it arms them with immediate intelligence that makes them that much more effective.”

Cullen added that integration was easy. A built-in net plugin allows users to access the BriefCam module from within Smart Client. This minimizes the system resource draw on the CPUs, and lets operators accomplish many things from a single interface, saving a great deal of valuable time.

Most recently, Cullen and his team have started integrating a system called HawkEye Effect, which ties the VMS to the city’s existing Shot Spotter system. When acoustically detected gunshots are detected, HawkEye Effect takes the exact coordinates drives all positional cameras in the vicinity either to predefined escape routes or right onto the location where the shooting occurred.

“HawkEye Effect gives us a much better chance of catching a perpetrator escaping the scene, either in a vehicle or on foot,” Cullen said. “In certain scenarios, it could result in us actually spinning cameras to view the aftermath of a shooting. It’s a powerful integration to that wouldn’t be possible without the open platform.”

Preventing Incidents Before They Happen

The flexibility of the open platform has allowed the police department to set up temporary, pop-up command centers for major events, including the Hartford Marathon and the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. At both events, temporary operational centers were built around utility poles. The cameras were installed a couple of days before the event, and were dismantled the day after the event. During the marathon, trucks with cameras temporarily installed on their sides were also used to obtain 360-degree, highresolution coverage. Both deployments were extremely successful at maintaining the safety of participants and spectators. The police will continue to roll out pop-up centers at other public events in the future.

A More Responsive System

O’Hare was first introduced to the VMS in 2008, and says he’s admired the responsiveness of the system ever since. Now that his department has the VMS in place, along the, he and his team of analysts are fully realizing the importance of this solution.

“It’s a great hub for us and it’s been so reliable and quick with everything we do,” O’Hare said. “That’s helpful when we need to get a fast license plate or catch a shooter walking down a street. Reactivity to me is the number one piece of the pie, and Milestone is the best at it.”

Whether they need to track a stolen car or people out on the street, O’Hare said their hub has worked perfectly for them, especially with the Axis cameras providing crystal-clear images. “We pass the information on to the guys on the ground with successful results,” O’Hare said.

Easy to Manage and Take Video, Remotely

By implementing Mobile Client on smartphones and tablets, the police department has given several officers the ability to view and capture video easily on their mobile devices. They can quickly record evidence from a crime scene or an event in-progress and transmit it back to the Crime Center. The app gives him the ability to easily record video with the phone’s camera if an incident were to arise in that location.

“He has a dedicated channel that can be brought up on the display in the Crime Center if a panic alarm is detected at City Hall,” Cullen said.

Working with the Community

The city is looking into a pilot program with Axis to roll out cameras to small businesses and community groups throughout the city. The city would subsidize the Axis cameras and enable Axis One Quick Access technology, which would allow the video from the cameras to be funneled back to the city’s servers and stripped of data and forensics.

“It will empower local small businesses to be able to deploy cameras on their own networks,” Cullen said.

This would also give the police department the ability to view video from these cameras should they receive a call about an event happening in the area or to help solve a crime that has occurred.

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

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