Mesh surveillance

GCN Insider | Products and trends that affect the way government uses technology

A spate of serial crimes in Phoenix during the summer of 2006 led the city's police department to search for a new video surveillance system. With no time to lose, the department selected a system from Firetide based on wireless mesh technology. Avrio Group was the system integrator.

It took 14 days 'from our first phone call to viewing images over the surveillance cameras,' said Chris Jensen, a detective at the Phoenix Police Department's drug enforcement bureau.

The Phoenix police deployed 30 cameras and 45 wireless nodes, covering 515 square miles of the city. Many of the cameras are hidden in camera hides, ordinary street objects that disguise the cameras.

Crime hot spots have a way of migrating to other parts of town once they are discovered by police. Because the Firetide system is wireless, the cameras can be moved quickly, enabling police to stay a step ahead of criminals.

The system also works with the city's existing analog cameras, which saved the police department from having to scrap them and buy expensive new ones, Jensen said.

Officers can view the video on their handhelds. The color images also can be viewed via the Internet. Jensen described the video as 'jaw dropping. People are astonished at the quality of video that's coming back.'

Firetide uses a secure 4.9 GHz public-safety band so 'Joe Blow off the street can't access it,' Jensen said.

Better video surveillance also means the department needs fewer surveillance officers on the street. The department has been able to scale back from 30 surveillance officers to two to cover the same geographical area, Jensen said.
Officers can search the video by date and time. Users can also fast-forward through dull portions and search for motion.

Perhaps best of all, the system made it through Phoenix's summer. 'Our weather seems to melt most electronics,' Jensen said.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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