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GCN : March 2013
CASE STUDY 32 GCN MARCH 2013 • GCN.COM Baisden said. Prisoners were able to track camera movements and avoid being cap- tured on video. When something was captured, finding the relevant scenes was time-consuming and often not productive because of the quality of the images. In October 2009 the county entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with DOJ that called for hiring a "sufficient number of qualified jailers" to put at least one officer in each pod at all times. DOJ ac- knowledged that this would take time and money, and agreed that in the meantime the county would take other steps, includ- ing increased video surveillance. Fully staffing the jail without improved video would have required hiring 200 deten- tion officers in addition to the 450 already on staff, at an annual cost of $10 million. The decision was to replace the video sys- tem. Avigilon's Control Center software will work with any digital camera, but it also makes its own line of HD cameras which are being used by Oklahoma County, ranging in resolution from 1 to 29 megapixels. With an analog video encoder the soft- ware also manages feeds from legacy cam- eras, a feature the jail is using to manage security at adjacent county buildings and for some older cameras still in use at the jail. Video feeds not only are time-stamped for research, but also can be searched for movement in particular areas of a frame, such as a door opening or a person entering the view. High-definition megapixel surveillance has been a cost-effective, viable solution for about five years now, Ramsay said. "The fundamental tasks are fairly simple," he said of HD monitoring. But performing them with the large data streams adds com- plexity. "It presents a lot of interesting tech- nical challenges," he said, including manag- ing the maximum number of camera feeds a server can handle and optimizing effective storage and recovery of video. THE BUILD-OUT Oklahoma County spent $364,000 in 2009 on the initial acquisition of 138 cameras, seven servers, switches, fiber optic cabling and 252 terabytes of storage. The jail now has about 180 cameras, which are station- ary and have intersecting fields of vision to cover 100 percent of each pod. The county did the installation with in- house staff to save money and to ensure that the jail would have the expertise it needed to manage and maintain the sys- tem with a minimum of outside support, Baisden said. Installation began in November 2009 and was completed by the end of the year. The first altercation was caught on cam- era on Jan. 1, 2010. In the first month, 30 inmates were charged with violent crimes and the prosecutor was able to go to court with better video evidence. Altercations dropped to about 30 a month rather than the previous 300 in a population of about 2,500 detainees. The primary limitation of the system today is storage. The current 252T capac- ity provides 45 to 60 days of storage. The county would like to increase that to as much as two years, the limitation for filing tort claims in the state. Storage could be stretched some by a technique called data aging, in which the frame count for older video is reduced. But Baisden is reluctant to do this. Another alternative is to upgrade to cameras using more efficient H.264 com- pression. Baisden estimates that a switch to H.264 could extend storage by 60 to 70 percent. That would not provide all of the addi- tional capacity the county wants, but some H.264 cameras are being used in a parking garage and the juvenile detention center to evaluate whether the upgrade would be more cost effective than buying the addi- tional storage needed. • When upgrading a system or trying to solve an old problem, agency IT shops should be wary of looking only as far as familiar technologies and price tags. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money, especially if it means acquiring new technology that is more e cient and cost-e ective, says Capt. David Baisden of the Oklahoma County Sheri s O ce. The Oklahoma County Jail got a clear view of the benefits of a man- ageable high-def video surveillance system, which cut costs and reduced altercations at the crowded facility. "Don t waste good tax dollars on buying old technology," said Baisden, who is in charge of support services for the Oklahoma County Jail in Okla- homa City. "Too many vendors are still pushing old technology and too many people are buying old technol- ogy because that s what they know." Faced with a need to improve security in the county s 13-story, understaffed and violence-prone jail, the county chose to replace its legacy analog video system with a high-definition digital system that cut costs and reduced the number of violent incidents among prison- ers. In addition to getting a more comprehensive view of the jail, the HD quality allows o cials to clearly identify detainees involved in alterca- tions, which has made detainees less inclined to start trouble. That decision has produced a sig- nificant return on investment in only a few years, but finding the right new technology means doing your own homework and not cutting corners, Baisden advised. "Don t rely on a vendor to sell you a solution," he said. "Don t allow a vendor to engineer a solution for you." He recalled one IT project that was engineered by a salesman. "It failed miserably, and I m not going to let that happen again." O cials should take full advantage of industry and professional resources, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology and --- for law enforcement --- the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Tech- nology Center (funded by the Justice Department). "They are invaluable resources," Baisden said. Having a track record of making the right choices can make it easier to get the needed money from higher-ups to upgrade to more cost-efficient technology. "That s why they are willing to listen to me," he said, when he proposes upgrading the HD video system with new cameras. -- William Jackson