VidSys command center

Video surveillance: Keep it simple

When the Boca Raton Police Department was shopping for a system to integrate video feeds from disparate surveillance systems, being user friendly was a key consideration.

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"We're simple men with simple means," said James Burke, the department's director of support services. "We needed something that works, without needing a technology degree to run it."

The city settled on the VidShield system from VidSys, a Web-based system that translates various video and transport protocols to a single standard and gives access from a single point. The department relied on the system when Boca Raton hosted the third presidential debate in October.

Before making a decision on a surveillance system, the department studied systems already in use in other cities, such as Houston and Chicago.

"We went into our project trying to look at best practices," Burke said. "We're trying to do it right and learn from their mistakes."

Chicago, for instance, which has one of the largest municipal video surveillance systems in the nation, failed to budget for proper maintenance of the cameras, which cut costs up front but caused problems down the road.

The department hired its own video technician and opted to handle installation of the VidSys system in-house rather than hire a vendor for the job. In return for this added expense, the department is able to manage the system and has a technician available to help with the maintenance of the video system being installed by the city.

Officials expect to fully implement the system over the next two years. At the moment, it consists of video feeds that are used for investigating incidents after they've occurred, but the department plans to add intrusion alarms, data from gate access systems and eventually use the feeds for real-time situational awareness and analysis.

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