It Takes a Village
Atlanta chooses to deploy force multiplier to aid officers in protecting the city
- By Kevin Taylor
- Mar 01, 2020
Both the capital and the most populous city in the
state, Atlanta, Georgia is home to nearly half a
million people. It also contains the third largest
concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the
country and serves as the global headquarters
for corporations such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Delta Airlines
and UPS. As the city’s population grew, it became apparent the
Atlanta Police Department (APD) needed a force multiplier to
assist its 2,000 officers in protecting Atlanta’s residents and businesses
while also creating a safer environment for the millions of
tourists visiting the area.
In 2007, then Atlanta mayor, Shirley Franklin, was instrumental
in creating the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), a private,
nonprofit organization of business leaders, whose mission is to
ensure that Atlanta is one of the safest large cities in America. One
of APF’s first strategic programs was Operation Shield, which
would become a canopy of integrated surveillance cameras that
would monitor neighborhoods across the city. The 10,000+ camera
network enables the Atlanta Police Department—through its
partnership with APF and private sector businesses—to maintain
real-time surveillance across much of the city, helping to reduce
crime and enhance emergency preparedness.
Creating a 360-degree View
As the city began strategically deploying surveillance cameras
throughout Atlanta, APF invested $350,000 to create the cuttingedge
Loudermilk Operation Shield Video Integration Center
(VIC). The VIC integrates video feeds from nearly 10,400 publiclyand
privately-owned surveillance cameras to give the police department
greater coverage of city streets. The VIC boasts a mosaic of
video screens monitored by police officers across three shifts.
“The VIC gives APD the ability to have eyes across the city and
pull video from participating stakeholders without having to own
all the resources ourselves,” said Senior Police Officer Thomas R.
Sutton on the Operation Shield team. “By connecting with other
entities that already have camera systems in place, we save the
city a huge investment in equipment and ongoing maintenance.”
While APF has no control of what camera systems other entities
deploy, most of the 400 cameras owned and operated by the city are
HDTV-resolution AXIS Q60 Series PTZ Network Cameras.
“With the PTZs we get excellent coverage with some models
giving us full 360-degree views of the vicinity,” Sutton said.
Most city cameras are installed at intersections and street poles.
“Given that the places we deploy them don’t necessarily have
the best lighting, or they have changing lighting conditions, AXIS Q60 Series’ extreme low-light sensitivity is especially useful,” said
Sutton. “Plus, their optical zoom range has been phenomenal.”
Working Out the Technical Details
Integrating all the different video sources into the VIC had its
challenges. Cellular companies complained that high concentrations
of cameras in certain locations were draining bandwidth.
Recording all the video in-house consumed an enormous amount
of 4G bandwidth. Furthermore, the network outgrew the capacity
of APD’s original VMS. Working out all these issues required
some creative thinking.
When APF launched the collaborative initiative, the team
chose to implement a dual management system: a VMS for citydeployed
cameras and a separate Physical Security Information
Management (PSIM) to integrate camera feeds from the mixed
technologies of other stakeholders’ surveillance systems.
The open application programming interface of the city’s Axis
cameras has afforded APD the ability to continuously shop for
best-of-breeds solutions as technologies and security system vendors
innovate and change over time.
In 2016, the team decided to migrate to the Community Connect
framework, built on Genetec Federation technology that links
independent video systems back to the Atlanta Police Department.
Today, most cameras in the system stream directly to the cloud using
Genetec’s video surveillance as a service solution Stratocast.
Officers can now access private video footage as needed.
“This not only helps the VIC reduce bandwidth consumption
but gives us the ability to share a particular piece of video in multiple
directions such as out to other precincts or responder command
posts without having to feed it through the VIC,” Sutton said.
Working Together For a Safer City
In most cases, APD only has permission from outside entities to
view their video live, but not record it. Nor does APD have permission
to manipulate a private entity’s cameras, but there have
According to Maj. Neil Klotzer, there was an incident recently
where an employee at a local business was panning the area with
its company’s PTZ camera and heard some gunshots. Startled by
the sound, she accidentally tilted the camera in a not-so-useful direction.
Since APD had been granted prior permission to control
the camera remotely, an officer was able to redirect the camera to
better survey the scene and capture important situational details.
“From our perspective, the more cameras we have in an
area the better,” said Major Klotzer. “Operation Shield demonstrates
that working together we can build
a safer, more secure city for everyone. And we
can do it while respecting the right to individual
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue of Security Today.