The town of East Fishkill, N.Y., may be a bucolic enclave 60 miles north of New York City, but with nearly 30,000 residents and 15,000 commuters passing through on a daily basis, the local police department has its hands full monitoring what happens within its jurisdiction.
Until recently, the East Fishkill Police Department, which occupies the third largest police station in Duchess County, used an aging analog video surveillance system to keep tabs on what went on outside the building and within critical internal areas such as the main squad room, the interview room and the temporary holding cell. Then the cameras began petering out one by one, says Detective John Olmoz.
The analog setup was somewhat limited in scope, with an antiquated, closed-loop DVR system as the sole repository for storing video. To make matters worse, the footage was black and white only. Rather than replace the broken cameras on a piecemeal basis, the department decided it was time to scrap the old equipment for new infrastructure -- in this case, an IP-based digital system and network video recorder (NVR) that would bring the station's surveillance capabilities up to par with modern technology.
"In this day and age, you never know what's going to happen," says Olmoz, the technical lead on the project. "Our old system was outdated, and there were limitations with quality. We're a 24x7 police department, and we needed better security."
All in the Details
Olmoz, who handles the police department's IT needs in addition to his detective duties, assisted officials in developing a wish list of technology for a new surveillance system. For one, he sought cameras that could operate in low-light conditions, and color, high-resolution video was a must. "If a witness sees someone with a red jacket behind the police station, we want to be able to use that detail to describe the person," Olmoz explains.
Frames per second at which the new surveillance system can store video
Source: East Fishkill (N.Y.) Police Department
The other major requirement was to tie the video system into the existing network so video could be accessed from any computer, as opposed to the older system in which a CRT monitor had to be physically connected to the surveillance DVR to view live video streams. This type of arrangement limited viewing to a single individual who had to manually switch between camera feeds and couldn't view all cameras simultaneously, Olmoz says.
Using a $15,000 grant from Operation Impact, which funds police department operations investments, the department purchased 13 D-Link IP cameras, a D-Link switch and the stars of the video surveillance overhaul: a pair of D-Link NVRs and a software bundle that delivers high-resolution color video display, in addition to providing high-capacity storage and remote management capabilities. Each D-Link Model DNS 726-4 NVR features dual 2-terabyte hard drives for a total of 8TB of video storage -- a far cry from the department's older DVR unit, which had only a 500-gigabyte hard drive for archival storage of surveillance video.
2 network video recorders with 4TB of capacity each
13 digital IP cameras
Approximately $15,000, including hardware, software and installation
The storage capacity of the new surveillance system, installed last September, has completely altered how the department can tap video. Before, the department had to record at a lower resolution and fewer frames per second in order to maximize the DVR's limited storage space. Today, the new system can store video at 30 frames per second, producing a smooth, quality image that provides the details officers are seeking when monitoring surveillance feeds. The system is currently set up to store 30 days' worth of continuous surveillance video, but Olmoz says he may lower the frames per second to get even more storage capacity.
John Honovich, an analyst and founder of IP Video Market Info, a provider of video surveillance information, agrees that a switch from analog to digital can make all the difference when it comes to capturing the detail that might otherwise be missed. "With analog cameras you don't get any detail unless you know who the person is directly -- the same thing goes for license plates," he explains. "This kind of system can help ID suspects and help identify issues."
Play It Again
Another big change with East Fishkill's IP surveillance system is that anyone can play back video from the system -- not just the dedicated dispatch desk -- because the system allows for remote access, something Olmoz and his team will explore. "It changes the game by opening up [the surveillance video] to anyone here with the right security privileges," Olmoz says. "People can now view cameras from anywhere in the building with a connected device."
With that purview, officers are already doing things with the new system that they couldn't do before. In one case, the D-Link camera positioned in front of the police station was able to capture the movement of a vehicle carrying a potential robbery suspect as the car crossed through the intersection in front of the station. The surveillance system has also been instrumental in helping the department stay on top of damage to police cars and other vehicles in the parking and impound lots.
Moving forward, Olmoz is considering upgrading the camera lens for even better image quality and putting a camera on the roof, controllable with a joy stick, to get a 360-degree view of the intersection and traffic lights.
While the video surveillance upgrade has been a boon, Olmoz says it's fortunate he has an IT background because there was some complexity to the installation and the department lacks a full-time IT support person. "If we had to hire someone full time to install and deploy the camera system, it might have been outside of our budget," he says.
Surveillance System Shopping List
John Honovich, analyst and founder of IP Video Market Info, a resource on video surveillance technology, highlights some factors to consider when evaluating systems:
Open versus proprietary: Some video recorders come bundled with software that only works with that brand of camera. Buyers need to decide if this is too restrictive an approach for their implementation; if so, consider open-source video software, which can be used with video gear from a variety of manufacturers.
Maintenance: If dedicated IT staff is not available or resources are limited, consider video surveillance appliances that include everything from software to firewalls in a soup-to-nuts package.
Sound quality: If interview room monitoring is a priority, make sure to explore the quality of the IP systems you're evaluating. While many are reasonably priced and have microphones and speakers built in, they lack the quality of audio that might be necessary for this application.