Oct 19 2018
Public Safety

5 Tips to Better Manage a Citywide Video Camera System

Network monitoring tools and regular maintenance can help city governments maintain effective surveillance camera networks.

Surveillance cameras have become pervasive in many cities in recent years. Privacy concerns aside, IP-based video cameras can improve security, discourage people from committing crimes, provide first responders with situational awareness, help police solve crimes and serve as evidence to secure convictions. But cameras can’t function alone.

As local governments populate their streets with more cameras or upgrade to high-definition or 4K cameras, they also have to upgrade their networks, servers and storage equipment to handle the increase in massive video files. Some cities embrace cloud storage and beef up their camera systems with new applications, such as gunshot-detection technology and video analytics.

According to IHS Markit Principal Analyst Jon Cropley, while some cities are deploying cameras for the first time, many others are expanding existing systems. “It’s a mix,” he says. “The U.S. as a whole has been installing a high rate of cameras for longer than many other countries. A higher proportion of new equipment, therefore, is for upgrading or adding to existing systems.”

There are numerous concerns that city IT leaders need to address as they maintain their surveillance camera systems. City managers of video surveillance networks discussed how to support a strong video camera system with StateTech, and they emphasized care of the cameras and the health of the network.

Here are their five tips for managing a municipal video camera system.

1. Deploy Network Monitoring Tools

The network is critical for IP security camera systems, so the city of Pittsburgh deployed SolarWinds software, which monitors the health of its network and automatically alerts IT staff if it detects problems. “It tells us proactively, ‘This link is not as healthy as it used to be or it’s experiencing issues,’ and then we investigate,” says Daniel Shak, the Pittsburgh Public Safety Department’s technology manager.

2. Perform Regular Camera Maintenance

Sometimes cameras attached to traffic lights move and need to be readjusted, or their lenses get dirty and need cleaning, says Andy Milam, IT director for the city of Lafayette, Ind. Traffic departments can help perform the maintenance with their bucket trucks

3. Take Pictures Along with Video

Cameras should take snapshots once every two seconds as backup in case motion sensors are not triggered and the cameras don’t record video, Milam says. 

4. Keep Spare Parts for Cameras

Pittsburgh keeps spares of all components, including cameras and wireless radio infrastructure, so the city can troubleshoot quickly and minimize downtime, Shak says. 

5. Take Advantage of Advanced Replacement Warranties

If a camera breaks while under such a warranty, the vendor will ship a replacement immediately. That’s much faster than traditional warranty coverage, under which a city would have to ship the broken camera back to the manufacturer, who would repair it and send it back to the city, Shak says.

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