Crime watch on the move

Mesh network links surveillance cameras in temporary deployments

PROJECT OVERVIEW: PROJECT: Wireless temporary video surveillance.

AGENCY: Police Department, Long Beach, N.Y.

PARTNERS: AgileMesh Inc. and Firetide Inc.

GOAL: Monitor crowds at Long Beach's Irish Day event.

OBSTACLES: The annual event spans several blocks in the town.

SOLUTION: A wireless mesh network erected
for one day connects all the cameras and feeds the video to a central monitoring station.

PAYOFF: The October 2007 festival had the highest attendance ever, and
no serious crimes were reported. The city now wants to use a wireless camera system for other municipal applications.

The annual Irish Day Parade and Festival
held each October in Long Beach, N.Y., grew
from about 300 attendees 17 years
ago to about 30,000 last fall.

The task of keeping all those people safe
falls to the 77-person Long Beach Police
Department. With entire sections of the town
closed to vehicle traffic for the all-day event,
maintaining order is challenging, said Sgt.
Bill Dodge.

The police force often encounters problems
related to drinking and disorderly conduct at
the event, he said. "Policing is very difficult
when you have a crowd that large. We needed
to be able to get a big picture
of what was going on."

For the most recent Irish
Day, city officials installed a
temporary wireless video
surveillance network from AgileMesh Inc.
and Firetide Inc.

The system uses mesh network technology
to link all cameras wirelessly. To be connected
to the network, each camera only needs to be
in range of another camera/radio node, said
Joe Stefan, president and chief executive officer
at AgileMesh of Richardson, Texas.

The system is designed to provide video
surveillance anywhere with little warning.
The technology is ideal for situations when
time or environmental constraints make
stringing cable impossible.

Firetide of Los Gatos, Calif., provides the
mesh networking technology for the portable
surveillance systems.

They have several applications that are
used extensively for law enforcement and tactical
deployments, Stefan said.

"SWAT teams use it when they
have a hostage situation or an active shooter
situation, and they want 360-degree visibility
around an incident."

ASSET PROTECTION

Users can quickly assemble the portable, selfpowered
system for such a situation. For the
Long Beach deployment, an extensive site
survey located the placement of the cameras.
AgileMesh systems were mounted on buildings,
light poles and utility poles.

The system also works well for asset protection
when whatever is being protected frequently
moves around. NASA, for example,
uses it to protect two valuable research
planes. As they are moved from location to
location, the video surveillance system goes
along.

The cameras and radio nodes come in
pairs, and there can be two cameras per radio
node. The Camera Deployment Units include
a single- or dual-dome camera and a heavyduty
tripod. The cameras have full pan, tilt
and zoom capability and a 23x optical-zoom
lens.

The radio nodes are self-powered and
contain mesh networking radios and proprietary
control panels that allow the user to
select various frequency channels. That
enables agencies to change the frequency
and the service set identifier. Two levels of
encryption ensure that nobody else picks up
the signal.

The technology's biggest draw is the ease of
setting up and using the cameras, Stefan said.
"They don't need to be a networking expert
or an [information technology] person to
deploy it," he said. "They just take them to a
location, turn them on and select a channel.
The control panel on each node shows the
users how many other nodes it is in range
with."

CRITICAL NEED

For Long Beach, having a better ? though
temporary ? way of monitoring the crowd
was critical.

"An officer on the ground might be 30 or 40 feet away from an incident that's happening
and not be able to see it because the volume
of people is so great," Dodge said.

In past years, commanders on the ground
found it difficult to send officers where they
were needed. Several of the town bars open
beer gardens for the event, and in previous
years it was impossible to see which ones
were drawing the biggest crowds.

In addition to setting up the surveillance
cameras, the police department publicized
the technology that would be in place. They
wanted revelers to know they were being
watched.

The system comes with video-monitoring
software that is usually loaded onto a laptop
PC in a command vehicle. Dodge said the
Long Beach officer manning the laptop on
Irish Day needed only about an hour's training
on the software.

AgileMesh's technology is designed to integrate
with agencies' existing cameras. Analog
cameras are plugged into a video encoder
that digitizes the picture, and the video is
shared on the mesh network. Digital cameras
are plugged directly into the radio nodes.

The technology worked so well that Long
Beach issued a request for a similar system
for its housing authority's public-housing
complex. The town wants a system that will
allow officers to tap into a mesh video system
from their cars.

"I think this was the best Irish Day we've
ever had," Dodge said, adding that the most
recent festival drew the most attendees ever.

"It could have turned out to be something
pretty bad, and it didn't," he said. "It turned
out to be a beautiful garden spot, [a] familyoriented
event for the entire day."

Doug Beizer (dbeizer@1105govinfo.com) is a staff
writer at Washington Technology.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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