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Freeport Gets Video Surveillance System

Thu, 05/12/2011 - 8:17am
Monica Alleven

The city of Freeport, Texas, is setting out to do something that other cities may learn from: Build a wireless video surveillance system using mesh technology to help reduce crime and protect critical infrastructure in one of the nation's largest ports.

The city, home to the fourth largest oil reserve and 29 chemical companies, is using technology and gear from ADT Security Services and Motorola Solutions. Eventually, police officers will be able to view real-time video from their cars. City officials and the two vendors gave an update on the project to attendees of the ADT 2011 Media Summit in Chicago this week.

The chemical companies operate their own stand-alone video surveillance, but the $6.2 million project eventually will bring their cameras into a central system. Police Chief Tyrone Morrow says the city wanted an audio/video system to help secure areas of the city, which is home to assets of critical importance to the nation's economy, both to monitor high-crime locations and as a way to protect infrastructure that could be targeted by terrorists.

Jeff Pynes, Freeport's city manager, says Freeport doesn't exactly have a high crime rate – the city's website shows picturesque marinas, water skiing and suggests fishing, boating and golfing are among some of the fun things to do there – but the crime rate can always be lower.

The first cameras will monitor a large housing project, where drug trafficking, vandalism and illegal dumping have been a concern. The system also will monitor Freeport's marina, providing boat owners the capability to log onto an Internet site to check the security of their boats.

The project includes a wireless mesh network to transmit video from IP-based cameras located throughout the city, to be recorded in City Hall and monitored 24/7 at police headquarters. Another phase of the project will add cameras to monitor three bridges that provide the only vehicular access to the city, located between the Gulf of Mexico and an intra-coastal waterway. That's when major chemical companies are expected to link their surveillance cameras to the system.

What about the "Big Brother" component? Were residents reticent to have their lives captured on camera? Not so much, according to Pynes. A lot of residents work at the chemical companies, and residents know if anything were to happen to breach security, it would have a great impact on the entire region.

Most likely, people can just get used to cameras. Considering how many are deployed in retail and other establishments throughout the country, people are on camera about 60 percent of the time every day, said ADT Regional Account Manager Sam Sutherland. And municipalities are increasingly seeing the value in video and see wireless as the most economical and expedient way to go, says Ralph Bell, director of Municipal Solutions for Motorola Solutions.

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