University of Nebraska

From Many to One

By Karyn Hodgson Download PDF Version

This university consolidates their video system with Vicon’s IP video technology and provides consistent coverage, policies and procedures.

University of Nebraska

Not long ago, the Universityof Nebraska-Lincoln had several different video systems in place throughout the university. But when the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department (UNLPD) wanted to get a new central dispatch facility, it was time to make some changes.

“We were fragmented,” says Frederick Gardy, assistant police chief for the university. “Each individual college and department was purchasing its own CCTV equipment. There was not one purchasing standard.”

In 2003, the university began the process of reviewing different manufacturers. “We formed a committee from various operating units within the university who had already installed CCTV or would be installing CCTV,” Gardy says. “We reviewed the manufacturers and decided we liked the Vicon equipment.”

Probably the biggest benefit to the Vicon system, from the university police point of view, was the video quality.

“We were very concerned about the need to be able to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt and for us to create a standard,” Gardy says. “It’s called the CSI effect. In this day and age you need to show good video; otherwise you are not going to get that conviction.”

A Market Basket Approach

Once the university decided to go with Vicon, they needed to make a vendor selection. Their choice was Fastek, a systems integrator.

“We at Fastek are a non-traditional CCTV provider,” says Stanley Scheiding, manager, security sales and service for Fastek International. “We don’t have vans, trucks and ladders, and installers. We hire and train local electrical contractors to pull the cable, etc. We install head-end equipment, configure and make it accessible.”

University of NebraskaRight away, Scheiding saw the challenge. “They had a plethora of systems. Each was an island because the police had to go to the head-end in that building to see anything. There were no standards on the type of cabling, quality, or power of cameras. There were no installation standards for the manufacturer, nor were there for the process of installing.”

“They wanted a means of bringing it back to the head-end, viewing it and, as we progress, making it more intelligent in linking it to door contacts and other software.” Fastek can also tailor their offerings to the needs of each individual application. “What we provide is a market basket approach with the Vicon equipment.”

“This gives the university complete flexibility,” Gardy says. “We use a full range of DVRs, depending on the installation needs, whether there is a need to control pan-tiltzoom cameras, etc. What needs to be controlled determines which DVR we use. We are using just about all Vicon’s cameras. With the market basket, all their products are available to us under the contract.”

Policies, Procedures and Planning

With approximately 400 cameras currently up on the system, and a projected number significantly higher, any video equipment purchased for the university from this point forward will be Vicon. “But it goes beyond just purchasing approved equipment,” Gardy says.

“The technology itself is not our major concern,” he says. “It’s more about how the system is used. We don’t want to become ‘Big Brother.’ We don’t want to violate personal space or personal rights. Policing in a university environment has its own unique parameters. To successfully set up a system you must take into consideration the people you are trying to protect. We are very concerned with operating standards, more so than with the equipment itself.”

Gardy adds that this is a long-term process. “Each group has different purposes. Parking uses it for garages and parking lots. Then we have Housing that uses it on entrances to their units. Athletics uses it for event management and large venue protection. Our individual colleges use it for security into computer or research labs.”

In each case, however, the facility must follow set purchasing standards and practices. “We have focused on assisting them with establishing policies governing the use of CCTV images,” Scheiding says. “Prior to this, if you had a system, say in a dorm, you were in charge of that video. Now we are focusing first on practices.”

Fastek is also involved in planning systems for the future. “There is a new process designed by UNLPD. Say a building needs some security. We will meet with that building’s personnel. We assess what they want to do, what they need. In some cases, we suggest a change, then we give them a plan of what they might need. The process is called ROY (red, orange, yellow). If they want cameras in a structure and they are on a limited budget, the red plan is what they should do. Orange and yellow are phases to get there – where cameras should be placed when they have the money in the future. Sometimes we pull cabling for other phases to save time and money later.”

Return on Investment

“One of the nice things about the Vicon system is that, with so many systems already in use, everybody is still able to accomplish what their main goals for using CCTV are, without compromising any of the concerns,” says Owen Yardley, police chief at the university. “It’s the flexibility of it. Everyone had different uses for the system, but by standardizing, they didn’t lose any objectives they were trying to meet.”

In fact, in some cases, the university has been able to meet objectives they didn’t anticipate – and save time and money in the process.

Their first objective, of course, was evidentiary. “A system is only as good as the evidence you present in court,” Gardy says. “Our thinking was if we had a system that couldn’t help us win convictions, even if it cost less money, it’s not a savings in the long run.”

The university has successfully used the Vicon system to make arrests and prosecuting crimes.

“We wanted to move from a system where everything was done historically, to a system that gives us real time opportunity to prevent crime or address it while it is occurring,” Yardley adds. “With Vicon, our dispatch is able to view them all.”

In fact, in one instance, campus police were able to assist an outside agency in a situation where a suspect was pursued onto campus when he left his vehicle, ran from officers and hid. Using the cameras, a dispatcher was able to track him and direct officers to his hiding spot.

Another unforeseen benefit is the wider range of applications the system can now be used for. “We’ve changed pedestrian and vehicular traffic around on game days, using images from the cameras,” Gardy says. “We’ve been able to make arguments for changing traffic patterns by reviewing gate traffic flow using the system.”

“We’re trying hard not to make this a security-only application. We want to be able to see a greater return on investment by finding other ways to utilize CCTV.”

Yardley agrees. “Now we can do the traffic monitoring for vehicles and pedestrians; we can check on construction sites, check on events that are going on, and do remote patrolling of parking facilities, all from one location. It’s like having extra officers available.”

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