How one city reduced persistent vandalism at its outdoor pools with an integrated surveillance system.
The city of Ottawa was having a problem with vandalism. People were throwing broken glass, paint, and transmission fluid in the city’s 13 outdoor pools. Every time this happened, authorities had to shut down the pools and clean and decontaminate them, which often took days. The vandalism also made the facilities appear unsafe.
The pools already had intrusion alarms, but they were located on external doors and in indoor areas, such as locker rooms. The alarms did not prevent the vandals from doing damage and leaving before security could arrive on the scene. To find a better solution, Bob Gauvreau, manager of corporate security for the City of Ottawa, contacted Sunotech Canada, Inc., a local integrator that had already done some security-related contract work with the city. After researching several products, Sunotech recommended, and then the city purchased, a surveillance system with two-way voice communications from Dedicated Micros, headquartered in Chantilly, Virginia.
The system consisted of a digital video recorder (DVR), motion detection alarms, and a loudspeaker. (The digital cameras were purchased from another vendor, Pelco of Clovis, California.) Each pool was equipped with the system and one or more cameras, depending on the size of the facility. Some locations have up to five cameras.
The new equipment was integrated with the existing intrusion alarms. Now, when someone triggers the motion detector or intrusion alarm, the cameras are activated, and images of the area are sent to the central monitoring station and simultaneously recorded. Operators use the annunciator to speak to the intruders and ask them to leave.
Installation went smoothly at most sites. The cameras were installed to monitor the pool and the fence around each pool. The cameras were set up to simultaneously record locally to the DVR at the site and to send images over the city’s high-bandwidth broadband network back to the central monitoring station.
Several pools, however, were too far outside the city to have access to the broadband network. The only way that images could be sent from the DVRs was through the city’s low-bandwidth LAN network. Because of the limited bandwidth, the DVR could record images locally but could not send a clear image to the central station. This problem caused the system to crash frequently.
To accommodate the inability to send high-quality images over the network, security officers would have to retrieve the recordings that were made locally by the DVR, burn a CD of the footage, and then bring it back to the office. This was costly and time-consuming, says Gauvreau. Also, the annunciator feature wasn’t useful unless security personnel could view the feeds in real time.
In discussing the issue with Dedicated Micros, Gauvreau found that the company had developed a product that could solve the problem. The Digital Sprite DVR system supported low-bandwidth remote network links over dial-up modems. Using these new DVRs, security could view the remote areas, record video, and use the annunciator.
In 2006, the year before the DVR systems were installed, the city paid $700,000 to clean up the pools and remove graffiti. Since the installation, the cleanup costs associated with graffiti and vandalism have been minimal. “We get alarm triggers on the pools on a regular basis,” says Gauvreau. But those who trip the alarms now leave without doing any damage.
The city has since expanded its monitoring capabilities over the past year by using a mobile version of the DVR system, the TransVu, to record in remote hot spots that do not need surveillance full-time.
The system, which runs on wireless cellular rather than traditional wired networks, is enclosed in a trailer and can be moved to remote locations as needed. The unit can run on electricity if power is available. In areas without electricity, the unit can operate for up to four days on one set of batteries.
“The secret weapon of the system is durability,” says Gauvreau. “Because the unit is enclosed in a trailer, it can stand up to the weather. It is deployed all winter.”
According to Gauvreau, the combination of flexible technology and support from senior city officials has resulted in innovative solutions to difficult problems. For example, he notes that one hot spot—a secluded area in a park—was used by young adults as a meeting place. Such gatherings often got out of hand and resulted in vandalism to park facilities and nearby playing fields.
The mobile equipment was moved there. In one instance, security personnel using the system observed some people congregating after the park closed at 11:00 p.m. Using the two-way communication, the security monitor asked the group to leave, and they exited without incident. There have been no incidents in that area since. n
(For more information: Douglas Goins, Inside Sales Support, Dedicated Micros; phone: 703/904-7738, ext. 1017; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .)