Town of Palm Beach

Prestigious Florida Town Implements Video Surveillance and ALPR to Ensure Community Safety

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Business Challenge

Palm Beach is the easternmost town in the state of Florida in the United States, which is located on a 16-mile (26 km) long barrier island. Since the late 19th century, Palm Beach has developed a world-renowned reputation for its beauty, quality of life and small-town character.

The Palm Beach police department (PBPD) is always on the cutting-edge of technology when it comes to protecting the barrier island. With four bridges connecting the mainland, the PBPD implemented automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) technology to track vehicles coming onto the island. After some time, the chosen technology was proving to be unreliable and produced numerous inaccurate reads, if any at all. In its search to replace ALPR cameras, the PBPD decided it was also time to add video surveillance cameras around the island to increase crime solvability.

The PBPD reached out to Johnson Controls, a security solutions provider, who proposed Genetec Security Center as the best option for the city's needs. The unified security platform combines video surveillance, access control and automatic license plate recognition systems under one solution. Since the Town of Palm Beach was already using the AutoVu automatic license plate recognition system within Security Center for parking enforcement and digital tire chalking, the police department was confident moving forward with Genetec. SiteSecure, a leading security integrator which was recently acquired by Miller Electric Company, was contracted to handle the entire installation in light of its top-rated professionalism, knowledge and certification in Genetec solutions.

Security Center Video and ALPR Used in 90% of Apprehensions

Today, Omnicast, the IP video surveillance system of Security Center is managing 150 IP video surveillance cameras from Panasonic. The cameras are installed at main intersections and at every entry point on the island. More video surveillance cameras have been installed alongside 15 AutoVu Sharp IP license plate recognition cameras on Palm Beach bridges to track incoming and outgoing vehicles.

"These cameras are used in 90% of all of our apprehensions, and provides the evidence to solidify our prosecutions," explained Curtis Krauel, Captain at the Palm Beach Police Department. "Every vehicle coming onto our island is being recorded. If a crime has been committed, we either have a license plate number or video evidence associated to it. It's like fishing with dynamite."

AutoVu compares license plate reads to state-controlled criminal databases, such as the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center, which alert dispatchers and officers to license plates that are associated to stolen vehicles, stolen license plates, wanted persons, amber alerts, and more. The PBPD also creates its own database within AutoVu, when certain investigations require officers to track specific vehicles or persons of interests coming onto the island.

"One of the greatest advantages of Security Center is having both systems completely synced," explained Captain Krauel. "We can view our data collectively instead of having to go into different applications to view everything at once. For instance, when we receive an ALPR hit, we are able to quickly access live footage from any camera in that vicinity. We can watch the vehicle come over the bridge and move through our town."

While the 911 dispatchers are receiving and validating the ALPR hits, Security Center mobile allows law enforcement administrators and investigators to tap into the system at any point in time from their mobile phones and devices. The PBPD uses Security Center Mobile to either monitor important hits and to facilitate undercover surveillance and active apprehensions.

Working with the Community to Expand Surveillance Efforts

Privacy can be a concern for citizens when implementing surveillance technology; however, the PBPD leverages the granular user privileges in Security Center to control access to system information. "Dispatchers are only allowed to view system information while investigators can view, review and export system data and video. Then we have administrative rights for certain users where they can actually make changes to profiles and settings. These user permissions and hierarchies ensure that only those with authority can access video archives and that our citizen's privacy is taken seriously," explained Captain Krauel.

The PBPD actively engages community members to garner both moral and financial support in its efforts, inviting the public into the police department during open-house events to see the Security Center platform on display. According to Captain Krauel, "During these sessions some citizens commented on how safe they felt and many were in agreement to expand the system with more cameras. In theory, we can have a lead in almost 99% of the cases with this new system because we either catch them with an ALPR hit or video surveillance. There is simply no better investigative tool and its value is immeasurable."

The community has also benefitted from the new platform in other ways. When one of the bridges had been closed for repairs, camera access was shared with the Palm Beach Traffic Center. Operators could monitor traffic in real-time and control traffic light signals to ensure better traffic flow on and off the island during peak hours, thereby improving the towns accessibility and liveability.

Growing the Unified Platform over Time

Both the community and the police department have seen tremendous benefits from its investment in Security Center and appreciate having the flexibility to expand the system over time. Adding more intuitive features such as Plan Manager, the map-based interface of Security Center for easier system navigation, as well as implementing the Synergis access control system to secure precinct and city hall doors are options that Captain Krauel said the Town is considering in future expansion of the system.

"Security Center has definitely been a force-multiplier for us. Having both video surveillance and automatic license plate recognition under one platform gives us the ability to not only identify crimes, but also provide the leads that support arrest and prosecution. We began this project in 2012 with the intent of preventing and reducing criminal activity, preserving the quality of life in our community, and identifying suspects to aid in criminal investigations. Security Center has helped us accomplish this as we use it to pro-actively uphold the safety and integrity of our world-renowned destination, and we are proud of that," concluded Captain Krauel.

Infrastructure at a Glance

Within PalmBeach, Security Center is managing over 150 Panasonic IP cameras, including fixed and PTZ, and 15 AutoVu ALPR cameras located on the bridges and roadways leading in and out of the island. All video and data is connected to citywide wireless network and streamed back to city hall where recordings are kept. Two workstations are setup for dispatchers, and one more in the investigation room at the police precinct.