The Cameras Work: Denver’s wireless video surveillance

It’s either luck or the public safety video surveillance systems (“crime cameras”) are going mainstream. Denver Post recently ran an extensive article on Denver’s HALO (High Activity Location Observation) system. The initial phase of the system included 50 cameras and was deployed in the preparation for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The system uses Firetide’s wireless infrastructure mesh network to interconnect the cameras, and was deployed by our long-term integrator Avrio RMS, which is also behind Firetide-networked muni wireless security deployments for Phoenix PD, Rochester NY PD, and St Paul PD, among others.

“The cameras work”

Wireless video surveillance Denver

Wireless video surveillance “pod” in downtown Denver (click for larger view)

Even with an obligatory quote from ACLU (“terribly invasive and creepy”), the article is positive overall with quotes from the city council members  and police praising the system. Quoting from the article:

Denver council members, for the most part, praise the program. Video from a police camera helped in the successful prosecution of gang members who burned down the Holly Square Shopping Center. The video showed that one of the Molotov cocktails rolled off the shopping center’s roof and hit the head of the person who threw it, causing his head to catch fire.

In another instance, police video captured Shannon Stark when he fired a revolver at a Denver police officer after the officer ran a check on him. Stark, now 21, confessed to the shooting after police confronted him with video that showed the police officer ducking to avoid the bullet. Stark now is serving a 16-year prison sentence.

Lt Martinez of Denver PD said the cameras can have other uses beyond crime prevention. In the event of a disaster or terrorism attack, they also can help authorities coordinate evacuation routes and the dispensing of medicine, Martinez said. “The cameras work,” Councilman Charlie Brown said during a recent briefing. “I welcome them, and so do the neighbors.”

Little room is devoted to the camera system technology (as expected), except to say: “Denver’s cameras have resolution high enough to zoom in and capture an image of something as small as a license plate as far as a block and a half away.” (Pretty impressive for a wireless system!)

I do hope that the local press will start getting into the technology side of things, too. Wireless is gaining acceptance as a reliable transport and an alternative to cable and fiber in municipal video surveillance, transportation, government, education and industrial installations.

It’s is important for the citizens to know that deploying wireless instead of fiber can save up to 90% of network infrastructure costs. This translates to projects moving forward, rather than being bogged down in funding discussions. Even grant funding is very competitive these days, so if a public safety agency can show quick ROI, their application has more chance of being accepted.

“HALO paid for itself within the first 18 months of operation”

Update: This was definitely a lucky week, as another Denver HALO article came out: in Government Video this time. A couple of interesting quotes:

“Identifying suspects and witness through video capture has been very successful,” Lt Martinez said. “On the basis of reduced investigation and prosecution costs—down about 50 percent—we estimate that HALO paid for itself within the first 18 months of operation.”

He said HALO has helped solve the attempted homicide of an officer, assaults, domestic violence, drug dealing, and motor vehicle thefts. “And our ability to monitor large events has allowed us to better deploy our resources, which are limited,” he said.

For more information:

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About the author

Ksenia Coffman is the marketing manager at Firetide, a wireless infrastructure mesh company. She is responsible for Firetide’s marketing strategy and technology solution partnerships. She writes the blog, Mesh Without Wires.