The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department recently announced the deployment of a wireless video surveillance network in Lynwood, California as part of its Advanced Surveillance and Protection Plan. The system, designed and installed by Leverage Information Systems, was deployed using a Firetide wireless mesh network.
The Lynwood area, served by the LASD’s Century Station, has twice the national average of violent crime—which led to the deployment being funded by the nonprofit Safe Cities Foundation (headed by Belkin CEO Chet Pipkin), which coordinated donations from companies including Firetide, Belkin, and Best Buy.
According to Century Station Captain James J. Hellmold, the video surveillance enabled by the network “provides the deputies with real time intelligence if, in fact, there is an armed suspect—it allows them to move more safely and effectively attack that problem—and also to prevent crimes or interrupt crimes in progress.”
The system also supports both automatic license plate recognition and acoustic gunshot detection. “Any time shots are fired in a community, we need to know where they’re coming from… we need to know whether or not there’s a need for emergency rescue equipment, and to have a coordinated tactical response,” Sheriff Lee Baca said at the unveiling of the network.
Michael Dillon, vice president of business development for Firetide, says the hope is that this will be the first of many local deployments. “The sheriff’s office is responsible in their native jurisdiction for about 90 different communities that are unincorporated—but beyond that, they also contract with 43 other cities that may need this type of surveillance,” he says.
And Dillon says the backing of an organization like Safe Cities is key. “They bring together the various different factions from the community, be it business or government officials, or even angels within the community who want to have a stake in the safety of those communities and bring their resources to bear,” he says.
While there are only 11 cameras currently deployed on the network, Dillon says it’s enormously scalable. “They are just doing a modicum of what the network can handle,” he says. “They’ve got a great opportunity to go out and grow their system… they don’t have to limit themselves to where there’s power and wires.”
And the same is true with regard to bandwidth. “What’s happening more and more is that we’re seeing analytics both on the front end of the camera and on the back end, and this requires a richer quality of information, a much better, steady, clear signal… and Firetide is delivering that broadcast-quality video at full frame rates,” Dillon says.
The point, Dillon says, is that it’s crucial to get a clear, reliable, and detailed image at all times. “If Murphy’s still active, and I think he is, the most important thing is probably going to be the frame that you missed,” he says. “That full face post office glossy of the bad guy is something that you’ve got to retrieve at the moment that it occurs.”
The cameras on the Lynwood network, Dillon says, can zoom in to read a license plate from 200 yards away, even at night. “Interestingly enough, Leverage chose to put analog cameras in because of their clarity and, at this point in time, arguably their superior capability over most of the IP cameras that were available,” he says.
The license plate recognition solution, provided by PIPS Technology, is capable of passively scanning license plates. “It can run those plates against watch lists, wants, and warrants, stolen vehicle systems, and all the back-end systems that the sheriffs rely on in order to determine what’s going on with that particular vehicle,” Dillon says.
Dillon says the acoustic gunshot detection system, which uses ShotSpotter technology, is currently only being used to provide data to the command center—it isn’t set up to redirect the cameras automatically when a shot is detected. “They can manually take over and look in areas if they happen to have presence there,” he says.
The Sheriff’s Department says several arrests have already been made thanks to the new system—and according to Dillon, they’ve also been able to prevent retaliatory gang shootings. “They’ve actually been able to identify who the gangs are who are involved, and have the officers on duty more or less land on the retaliatory gang before they ever get into cars and go off to do their shooting,” he says. “So they believe they’re actually preventing serious crime, by just being able to see what has happened and then put the brakes on the incident before it escalates.”
And Dillon says that’s just one example of many. “I think most agencies are only scratching the surface of the ways that they’re going to be able to use this tactically,” he says.
For more on Wi-Fi and municipal video surveillance, read “Safety Net: Aruba Promotes Video Surveillance over Wi-Fi,” “Southlake, TX Deploys Wi-Fi Video Surveillance,” “Wi-Fi Protects Visitors During Super Bowl XLII.”
Jeff Goldman is a veteran technology journalist and frequent contributor to Wi-FiPlanet. He lives in Los Angeles, California.