Mesh Without Wires

June 3, 2010

Public Video Surveillance and Mainstream Media

Filed under: Physical Security,Public Safety Wireless,Wireless — kseniacoffman @ 8:05 am

Thanks to Smart Camera blog, I came across an extensive article in The Daily Northwestern (a university newspaper in Evanston, Illinois). It’s a fairly good representation of mainstream media coverage of public video security systems, although probably with more pronounced anti-Big Brother approach compared to a local TV station.

Still there are interesting tidbits in the article on camera systems effectiveness, community reactions and costs.

“The cameras the city currently operates have already helped reduce crime, [Evanston Police Department Chief] Eddington said. After police installed a camera in Brummel Park in 2007, calls for police service in the area dropped 39 percent over the summer, he said.

Eddington said he thinks the new cameras will be even more effective. They have better optics, are easier to control and will give police real-time access to footage, he said. Police will be able to obtain images of suspects immediately, before they have time to change their clothes, he said.

The cameras will also help the police force cope with Evanston’s budget crisis, Eddington said. Eighty percent of the police budget pays for personnel costs, and the force can’t afford to hire more staff. Though the grant runs out in three years, funding the cameras’ [maintenance] will be relatively cheap; he estimated all six current cameras combined cost less than $3,000 a year.

Eddington understands residents’ privacy concerns. Though he said police officers have not abused current cameras, he encouraged camera critics to keep asking questions. “Public scrutiny of the Police Department’s actions is completely appropriate,” he said.

But surveillance cameras are now a standard part of criminal investigations throughout the country, he said: “I think there is an expectation in a jury’s mind that we’d have video evidence at some point .”

As expected, there’s very little on the camera system technology, and nothing on connectivity (how are the cameras connected?). Hence we get very few mentions in the local papers – something we are trying to change, but with limited success. By the way, in this particular case, the city has already a lot of fiber installed, so wireless component in the new system, if any, will be small.

City of Chicago public video surveillance camera

Cameras on poles are just tip of the iceberg in public video surveillance systems

The article in Wall Street Journal from November 2009 – Chicago’s Camera Network is Everywhere – is another example. The City’s Office of Emergency Management & Communications (OEMC) has an extensive network of cameras, many of them on Firetide’s wireless network, which the article makes no mention of. Since we had nothing to lose after the article came out, I emailed the reporter offering to provide more details on the wireless component of the network. To my surprise, the reporter responded. He shared these details on their thought process:

“I originally explained wireless mesh networking as part of the story, but the editor thought it got too technical, and unfortunately the idea of wirelessness (is that a word?) and Firetide’s key role got cut out too.”

So the struggle of getting the mainstream media to understand the importance of connectivity in public video surveillance deployments continues.

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