COUNCIL
surveillance solutions are a balancing act. There are multiple interest groups,
significant costs and an overarching need to show the system performs once it’s
been installed. More than most applications, the key to surveillance of a
council area is knowing what you want to achieve and knowing how to achieve it.
Burwood Council’s CitySafe Program CCTV system’s greatest strength is reflected
is what the system is designed to achieve – fast police response.

When we talk about
CitySafe it’s important to bear in mind that the surveillance system at Burwood
is part of an overall crime reduction and prevention program that Council sees
as vital to its future growth. The CCTV system is part of a broad strategy and
Council considered long and hard before making its decision to proceed.

“The program is
not just about CCTV – there are also social programs to engage the community,
to keep kids out of trouble,” says Burwood Council’s Tommaso Briscese. “CCTV is
part of a larger program, not the only thing we do.

“We have improved
lighting, cut back trees, instructed students living in the area how to avoid
incidents and areas of risk. We work to reduce potential areas of crime. Along
with these initiatives we have also installed video surveillance to proactively
fight crime if it might occur.”

Briscese says the
program is especially important given Burwood has been identified as a major
centre between the city and Parramatta by State Government Metro Strategy. And
a recent Local Environment Plan allows for an extra 2400 dwellings in the
centre of Burwood.

“So we will grow
– we will have a greater population and more traffic over the next 5 years and
we need to be ready for this growth through our railway station, our retails
stores and our streets,” he explains.

“Additionally,
Council is currently planning for the next 20 years and has just undertaken a
massive consultation with the community called Burwood 2030. This consultation is
designed to find strategic directions for Council and the top question in the
community is safety.

“Obviously,
responding to the needs and concerns of the community is paramount to the Council
and were an important part of Council’s decision to install video surveillance.”

The CitySafe
system

From the surveillance
system perspective, a combination of DVTel fixed and PTZ IP cameras provide
footage from remote sites and public areas which is carried over a VLAN on a
fibre backbone to Council’s main server room. From there it’s funnelled into Council’s
security monitoring centre where it is viewed on workstations running DVTel’s
iSOC V5.3 video management software.

When I arrive at
Burwood Council Chambers and meet system supplier Pacific Communications’
Michael Kennedy, he gives me a brief run through of the elements of the system
installed there. While the overall solution networks multiple sites, the
largest single site in the network is Council Chambers, which includes the big
monitoring centre.

“The installation
here at Council Chambers incorporates cameras on the main level – including a
mix of Arecont megapixel cameras, as well as DVtel IP and Panasonic SD5
analogue cameras,” explains Kennedy, as we stroll along.

“In the
underground carpark adjacent, there’s access control, steel gates and cameras
on all carpark levels – about 8 cameras in each of the 2 carparks. The way the
system works is that there’s surveillance on meters in the public carpark,”
Kennedy explains.

“There are also
multiple viewing screens on the network that are located where appropriate
staff can see them. For instance, the security manager can see key camera views
on a screen nearby and other managers see other cameras that relate to their
operations. It’s part of the solution-driven focus of the system.”

“At the heart of
the system is DVTel’s NVMS and it’s a very capable and flexible solution that
has proved ideal for this project.”

System function

Big case studies
like this one are based on a round table discussion and as soon as we sit down
to talk about the CitySafe system it’s clear that for Burwood Council, the
integral figure in this installation is former police officer and now Burwood
Council Senior Manager, Compliance, Martin Jenner, who together with Tony Murr
of AIC, designed and engineered the CitySafe system.

Jenner brings an
intense solutions focus to Burwood Council’s video surveillance program. It’s
this focus on real world function and his promotion of a close relationship
with Burwood Police that mark this system as something special in the sometimes
nebulous world of public surveillance applications.

It’s also obvious
from the get-go that this no investigative tool, it’s a working solution with a
two-fold job to do. Firstly, it provides surveillance of remote buildings and
facilities spread across the 7-square-kilometre council area. Secondly, it
provides public surveillance of hotspots along the busy Burwood Road shopping strip and the
adjacent railway station.   

But it’s in the
use of this surveillance we see the rubber meet the road. As Burwood Council’s
Martin Jenner points out, the system is specifically tailored to support early
police response to pre-crime incidents in an effort stop crimes before they
happen.

As Jenner explains,
there was a lot of consultation to make sure the team involved in planning the
system got the design right. As part of this process, Tony Murr from AIC worked
with multiple departments gathering all necessary information to assist with
planning so that Council would be in sync.

“The surveillance
system had to be practical for the purpose,” Jenner says. “There was no point
going down a design path not knowing whether or not what we were planning would
be effective. As a result we talked to police about areas in which crime
typically occurred and about ways in which we could support their operations.

“The reason for
our focus on a proactive solution designed to support police was we noticed
when we installed the initial CCTV system that it was reactive and wasn’t
really helping police get to incidents or obtain convictions.

“Seeing this,
we’ve worked to make the expanded system proactive and a key part of that is
development of a close working relationship with Burwood police,” Jenner
explains. “To facilitate this, the police have direct lines to the monitoring
centre allowing police to contact us and for our operators to contact police.
There’s a tremendous advantage in police actually getting to an offense while
it’s happening.”

According to Jenner,
what any video monitoring centre is doing is looking at three types of crime –
pre-crime, during crime and after-crime events. And he says what distinguishes
Burwood Council’s surveillance operations is that by proactively leveraging
CCTV Council it endeavours to turn all crimes into pre-crime events.

“Through instant
communication and fast response we want to facilitate police intervention
before offenses can occur,” Jenner explains. “At worst we want the police to
arrive during a crime.

“A reactive
response occurs when an offense has already occurred with no intervention and
although the system allows us to investigate such incidents more effectively,
what we really want is to get police to events during the first 2 stages.”

Jenner says that
thanks to input from police, the project team’s familiarity with the area and
operator experience with the surveillance system, Council now knows most crime
hotspots in the area.

“The system has
been installed in stages over 2 years and as a result we now know which cameras
on Burwood Road
may experience more crime and our operators will focus on those cameras. If
incidents start occurring in a particular area at a particular time then we
will start watching that area as well. 

“The proof of the
system is obviously in results and the figures for the last year showed that 70
per cent of all crimes recorded by the Burwood Council surveillance system
resulted in a conviction. Those are really high numbers and they show our crime
reduction program actually works.”

As part of its
overall coverage, Jenner says that Council also works with local business
including the Burwood Westfield Shopping Centre and he says this too, is a
vital part of the security and safety program.

“Westfield has its own surveillance within the
centre but no coverage outside and if they have an incidence they will ask us
to track that incident using our footage.

“So, it’s a
collaborative effort and staff from Burwood Council, security staff from
Westfield and officers from Burwood police meet quarterly to discuss strategies
and results,” Jenner explains.

“As part of our
overall program we work to manage crime in multiple ways but if these softer
measures don’t work then we will install CCTV cameras. The reason the CBD has
cameras is that it’s the busiest area and the area of most foot and vehicle
traffic.

“Expansion of the
system is staged and the way it works is that we will try a number of other
crime initiatives in the first instance such as lighting and cutting back trees,
then we’ll use a portable camera as part of the process of trying to assess the
value of expanding CCTV into a particular area. If the portable camera system
is detecting crime then we will install a camera in that location.” 

The Surveillance
System

On the
integration side of this solution the prime mover is Anthony Murr of AIC
Solutions. Murr is man of considerable energy and conviction and his long
involvement with the project and its design and installation gives him an
excellent perspective on its development and implementation. 

“There were a
number of legacy systems in Burwood Council area when we got involved,” Murr
explains. “When Martin Jenner was given responsibility for their integration
and expansion he had a vision that the system could be used to proactively
bring crime rates down in the community area.

“Martin wanted to
do this by getting bigger surveillance portholes into different areas, and by
increasing and enhancing the balance of coverage in multiple remote spots,” he
says.

“To facilitate
this, I worked with Mike Piemental and Robert Teo in Council in order to
establish where we could place CCTV cameras to reduce the third party manpower
Council was using to look after their remote sites.

“We work with a
lot of councils and Burwood is one council where there is someone with this
sort of vision,” Murr says. “You don’t want to spend more money and put in many
more cameras without improving the results. This system is designed
specifically to get results – it has a job to do.”

Jenner’s input
wasn’t just on the operations side.

“Martin was also
integral to the system’s initial acceptance as he was able to explain the
proactive nature of the planned solution and to describe, using his knowledge
of community policing, how the system could work with Burwood police in a way
Council understood,” Murr says.

“For Martin to
understand the police side and the security side and to put both sides in
layman’s terms and present the whole to Council as a functioning solution –
that was very important.”

Murr says the
size and scope of the Burwood system marks it as different from most other
surveillance systems.

“From an
installation point of view this system integrates public surveillance cameras
with what were once remote video surveillance systems at daycare centres, at
Enfield Pools, at Woodstock, the Burwood Bus Depot, and the Council Carparks,”
Murr explains.

“There are 5
primary remote sites that are considered hotspot locations for traffic and
crime in the area. In the legacy system these were initially supported by
standalone DVRs and then mini video servers,” Murr says.

“The trouble was
that if something went wrong Council staff would have to physically go and
retrieve footage from some little bunker on the remote site – they would have
to source keys and they’d find the system had failed because sitting in a
hostile environment dust had invaded it.

“This was a
really clunky way to do remote surveillance but it was what the budget allowed
for at the time.”

According to
Murr, it was the weaknesses of this legacy system combined with Jenner’s vision
for a proactive crime prevention solution that drove the installation of
something distinctly different.

“Knowing the old
way of operating did not work, the idea was to bring all the remote image
streams to a central point in Council Chambers where a single operator could
control a system and view react to that footage proactively,” Murr explains.

“Also very
important to this was Pacific Communications’ Michael Kennedy who has been
involved from the very start and who realised immediately that an end-to-end
digital solution was the only way to bring the remote sites together, while
supporting a growing public surveillance presence now and in the future.

“With this broad
vision in mind, over the past couple of years what we have done is slowly
brought each remote site into the council control room. It has been time
consuming because of the scale of the system and the need for infrastructure.

“The required
infrastructure is a network of fibre optic cable laid under the roads across
the council area,” Murr explains.

This
infrastructure is perhaps Burwood Council’s greatest achievement and in this
vision for a dedicated data network has been supported by Council managers and
mayors over multiple administrations. It’s an impressive achievement.

“Getting the
required fibre network in place was time consuming and what I did at Burwood
was to constantly talk to Council’s infrastructure people in order find out
when and where they were next running cables and try and get a fibre backbone
in underneath the roads,” Murr explains.

“This is the key
to the Burwood Council system. The fibre backbone turns a geographically huge
system into a big VLAN so if you want to call up footage from a remote site
like the carpark or the swimming pool, it’s instantaneous. Fibre is not carried
to every remote site yet, there are a couple still on ADSL but in the very near
future these last small sites will also be put onto fibre links.”

A networked
system has a number of serious benefits and perhaps the biggest one is that once
the infrastructure is installed it can grow quickly and inexpensively.

“If you walk down
Burwood Road
everywhere you see a DVTel IP PTZ there is a concealed switch point nearby that
gives us the power to go to 24 cameras within a 100 metre radius of that
point,” Murr says. “At the moment each of those 24-input switches only has one
or two inputs used.”

One of the best
parts of the potential growth of the system has been its progressive
incorporation into the CitySafe.

“Martin wanted
PTZ cameras so operators could control camera views of intersections,” Murr
explains. “As a result we strategically marked out spots along key roads where
we wanted to install PTZ cameras that would give multiple quality fields of
view.

“As a result
there’s one camera that can see an intersection, pan around to BurwoodPark and then pan to the other side of
the road and view the exterior of Burwood Westfield Shopping Centre. This
pre-planning for multiple views makes the system very flexible.”

Important, too,
is the fact far more fibre has been pulled that necessary in order to
facilitate expansion of all data comms across the Council area, including
voice. What this means is that in the unlikely event Council uses all the video
inputs currently at its disposal, the backbone incorporates plenty of spare
capacity.

“This is really
important,” says Murr. “One of the challenges with digital is that a system can
often be tweaked to work until such time the system starts growing and then
everything slows down but that won’t happen in this case. We have plenty of
spare infrastructure and as soon as things get congested, we can just activate
another fibre and off the system goes as fast as it did when there were only 5
cameras running on it.”

In a telling
indication of his sense of ownership of this installation Murr, says that when
the system was young and only had about 7 cameras, his biggest fears was that
some event would occur in a street or park that the camera configuration did
not cover.

“Now the coverage
is improved such blindspots are less dangerous in that the cameras we have will
show suspects in the lead up to off-camera crimes. We will see suspects moving
into the area and then moving out of the area and police can rely on clever
police work with suspects and witnesses to fill in the gaps. Just the fact we
can place the suspects in the area at the relevant time is a great advantage.”

Murr says that in
a recent instance, just before a crime was committed suspects collaborated up
the street near a camera.

“This allowed the
police to employ clever questioning to catch the criminals,” he explains.
“Often it can be a combination of police work and images captured by the
surveillance system that allows a conviction and that is why the system has
been so successful.”

Central
monitoring centre

The operational
heart of the Burwood Council surveillance solution is a control room that was
opened mid-2008. It’s a very nice job – not the dank hole in the wall security
operators are usually squeezed into. The centre incorporates multiple LCD
monitors configured as a video wall. There are 2 workstations dedicated to the
DVTel system and another workstation for the Concept Insight system that
manages Council’s access control solution. 

As a rule there
is only one operator on duty but if there’s a big function or street festival
Council can put on an extra operator to help drive the system.

Managing video is
DVTel’s intelligent SecurityOperationsCenter
(iSOC) V5.3, which is an open platform management system which includes DVTel
modules including Latitude Network Video Management System, Scenetracker
Situational Awareness and Adaptive Visualisation Technology (AVT), CaseBuilder
Incident Reporting and management Software, Longitude IP Access Control and
Mentor Agent Recording and Training Software.

What’s being used
for monitoring by operators at Burwood Council is DVTel LVMS, which is a
network-based system architecture that enables simultaneous live monitoring
from multiple stations and is configurable for storage of recorded video both
on and off site.

Importantly for
Burwood Council, the software can be configured to store and view from one to
100 to thousands of cameras and it can monitor connections across an unlimited
number of servers. Using DVTel, Council operators are able to monitor camera
views, activate camera functionality and conduct searches for events on behalf
of police.

“For the police
to get images there is a procedure that meets all the necessary ethical
standards,” Jenner explains. “They fill out forms and these must be approved
and then I provide a copy of footage and keep an account of what is given. I am
the only person handling the evidence chain process for court integrity
purposes.”

Meanwhile, Murr
says that the monitoring centre and its multiple DVTel workstations ensure that
as further remote sites and dozens of public surveillance points have been
linked to the system they can all be managed by just one operator.

“The capability
of DVTel to handle a distributed IP-based system is even more important given
that during the process of development the number of cameras attached to the
system has grown. Council has gone from a system which had 4 cameras to a
system which has nearly 100 cameras and DVTel has managed it all.”

Images displayed
on workstations and on the video wall are crisp with excellent depth of field
and Jenner says the system is working well and operators find it intuitive and
easy to manage.

“The way the
system works is that when an incident takes place the operator contacts the
police on the direct line,” he says. “Our operators get onto police pretty
quickly and this improves our chances of meeting the system’s goal of pre-crime
intervention,” he explains. 

The original
motivation to go for a digital system was performance at a range of levels and Murr
says the performance of the cameras and the management system is excellent.

“If you look at
one of the old analogue systems and compare it to a digital system, IP is far
better,” he says. The analogue footage was seen after the event, it was never
all that clear or that good.

“With digital
there’s a massive difference in quality. There’s also the benefit of easily
expanding the system in the future.”

From the video
surveillance perspective, the control room is manned at nights and during
special operations – Jenner says hours of operation are based on crime times with
consultation with the police.

Also integral to
the Burwood Council system is InnerRange’s Concept access
control managed by Insight software.

“There is an
integration between the Concept 4000 access control system and the CCTV,” says
Murr. “This allows operators to receive alerts and record footage from alarm
and access control events.

“Concept 4000 is
an Australia-built solution and it’s in all the remote sites in the Burwood
Council area. It runs on Insight software located on a workstation in the
control room with functionality controlled by Martin who manages all the
cardholders.

“Because the
Concept system is linked to the CCTV system there’s future potential for
greater integration between DVTel and Insight,” Murr says.

“Part of the
reason for the high level of access control was to defend the Council Chambers
building and this control room. Long term, people will be working here at night
time. Council also has meetings at different hours,” he explains.

“The way the
system is programmed is into areas some of which can be armed, some unarmed and
there’s also a physical barrier around the control room.

The network

When it came to
the network, Council’s IT department was involved in design and hardware choice
and is so integral to the system it is involved in all network purchases – with
servers, switchers and ancillaries provided by the IT department.

“We’ve worked
closely with the IT department on this and Burwood Council’s IT manager is
pretty passionate and has been keen to be involved and make sure the networked
surveillance system is set up properly with room for expansion,” says Murr.

“Historically
such things were handled by the security guys but now IT people are involved.
As part of this involvement, the IT department put forward a spec saying the
standard they wanted the system to meet and the system is designed and built to
meet that standard.

“The network side
has been designed specifically with the ability to grow using expansive
infrastructure. We have used top end product out in the field – HP Procurve
switches in the field and here in the server room,” he says.

The surveillance
system shares the server room with the rest of Council’s network infrastructure
and its layout is fairly simple. There are switchers, the main DVTel server, 2
UPS systems with a simple structure in which the power strip serving the system
goes into isolators and then into the UPS, and a backup SAN.

In terms of the
network layout, the surveillance system lives on a subnet with dedicated UPS
for all cameras and a dedicated UPS on the server. Murr says Council is in the
process of getting a backup server built to provide redundancy in the event of
failure.

Performance of
the system is impacted on by a range of factors including camera numbers, frame
rate and resolution, and storage.

“Until recently
the system has been running at 25fps. It didn’t need to be running at 25fps and
to the naked eye you can’t notice a huge difference above 12fps,” says Murr.
“We were running the system flat out to see how it coped. Once it proved to be
robust, what we have done is throttled back the frame rates to allow longer
image retention. We get storage of about 14 days on all cameras.

Robust design is
a key element of the system.

“The surveillance
VLAN is a gigabit setup and importantly we have a loop topography in the field
which allows for redundancy in the event of failures. What this means is that
if there’s a problem at some point in the fibre or associated hardware, the
video will shoot back the other way and this means you get all your cameras
minus the one that’s fallen over.

“It’s been a
little bit more expensive building the network like this instead of in the
ordinary way but our network is superior and more robust as a result. We had a
truck strike a camera point a few weeks ago and take out the fibre and although
we lost that one camera, the rest of the system stayed up.”

Importantly, all
network components are monitored by the IT department and the system is also
connected to the access control system so alarms can be generated if network
components fail. In terms of backend monitoring there’s also an AC alarm and a
temperature alarm that go back to the access control system for monitoring in
real time by operators in the centre.

“As a mentioned
earlier, the entire backbone is not yet fibre but it will be soon,” Murr
explains. “It’s also going to grow. Martin already has a blueprint for
extending the system across the community area in Burwood as part of Stage 3 –
this will include improving the backbone and making it stronger.”

Murr says the
expansion blueprint includes carrying fibre to areas like Burwood Park where
there have been incidents in the past, including kids tripping over in playing
areas, as well as getting fibre points closer to Parramatta Road.

“These, to give
improved coverage in blind spots like the bus pickup points near the park which
are dark and gloomy – Council also want to get coverage up to where the old
library is on the other side of Burwood
Road going up Railway Parade,” he says.

“There is a plan
underway to redevelop the shopping strip up there and there is a plan to
install under the road during this process of redoing pipes – the light poles
are to be fitted out to they can support CCTV cameras as well as lights – they
are multi-purpose smart poles.

“As part of this
installation the electricians will pull in fibre for the video surveillance
system so while the system is 100 cameras now it very quickly could double in
size again,” Murr says.

“There’s a lot of
infrastructure going in and the most inexpensive part of an installation is
putting the physical cameras up. I’d say the system is about half done at this
point.”

“Given the
complexity of the installation to remote sites and the fact Council has moved
office, there have been challenges and delays. That move had an impact on time
and budget – all has to be taken into account.”

Challenges and
conclusions

The install began
in 2008 and the control room was built and commissioned mid-2008. At the time,
Burwood was the first council to have a full digital video surveillance system
– when it was first installed it was very unusual for a Council to embrace full
IP. As a result of comparatively early adoption and the size of the council
area, there have been challenges for Council to get around.

“Discounting the
technical side, probably the biggest challenge for us was expectation,”
explains Jenner. “We wanted the end result on day one and it took a while to
realise that laying cables in the ground was not the same as completing the
system – it’s a process. Our mentality changed from an immediate result to the
implementation of a plan – we are proactive in our plan and we are strategic in
what we do so that when we need infrastructure in the future, it’s there. 

“The advice I
have for other councils contemplating networked video surveillance is to plan.”
he says. “Plan what you want, work towards planned results and work on building
relevant relationships with police and with businesses in the council area.
It’s about having as many eyes and ears to the ground as possible.”

Meanwhile, Murr
says the secret to Burwood Council’s surveillance success is the people around
the system.

“Martin’s
background in police work and focus on system function drove him to increase
synergy between Burwood Council and the Burwood Police,” Murr says. “He’s been
able to use his contacts and expertise in working with police forces to build
the necessary relationship. That’s been vital.

“He’s also had
the ongoing support of Council – mayors and managers in the past – as well as
the present administration. They’ve all come onboard and been very proactive
about the system and continued that support.”

And Murr has
plenty of praise for supplier, Pacific Communications.

“Michael Kennedy
from Pacom has been involved since day one supplying the DVTel VMS and the
DVTel IP PTZ and full body cameras,” Murr says. “In fact every bit of equipment
installed at Burwood Council has been supplied by Pacific Communications.

“We’re not using
other suppliers – we are loyal to Pacific Communications based on their service
– they honour warranty, give us fast service and provide tech support whenever
and wherever we have needed it – they’ve been fantastic.

“Technicians such
as Fytos George from my company AIC Solutions have also been involved from the
start and across the board it’s a good team that works well together. AIC
Solutions has been servicing Burwood Council for six years so there is a good
relationship there.”

But while the
system’s capability is important, for Martin Jenner success is all about
results and he believes the system is fulfilling its desired role – reducing
crime by ensuring early police response in a way that improves safety across
the council area.

Jenner says
police response times are improved and shop owners on Burwood road have noticed
that response to anti-social behaviour is much quicker – they say sometimes
they don’t even realise a problem is developing until they see the police.

“I’m very happy
with results,” Jenner says. “When other councils call and ask our advice about
surveillance solutions I always say they need a manned system like this and
they need to work with the police, to have a relationship and have feedback –
that’s the big thing most council’s don’t do.

“The specific
function of the system is to reduce crime by proactively focusing on pre-crime.
We are really trying to focus on the pre-crime stuff. We want police
intervening,” he says.

“We think it is
working and my belief is that Council’s overall plan to reduce crime, the
excellent response from Burwood Police and a 70 per cent conviction rate for
offences captured on camera is making a real difference – that’s the feedback.

“Crime is being
solved by police through community interaction and with the support of CCTV. The
number of requests we get for footage show it’s become a real asset to Burwood
Police officers.”

Touring the
Burwood Council surveillance system my strongest impression isn’t just the
capability of the hardware and software components that comprise it, capable
though they obviously are. Instead it’s an indelible sense of the vision,
enthusiasm and long term commitment of the people behind this evolving solution
– Burwood Council’s Martin Jenner, AIC Solution’s Anthony Murr and Pacific
Communications’ Michael Kennedy.