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Wi-fi community police surveillance for West Palm Beach.

Firetide : 27 February, 2008  (Application Story)
Innovative outreach program enables private and commercial surveillance systems to be linked to police control across a Firetide Wi-Fi network.
The West Palm Beach Police Department now has "digital eyes" on the streets of the largest and busiest city in Palm Beach County, Florida. The police department has set up an advanced wireless video surveillance network powered by Firetide. The system, deployed by local systems integrator Security 101, ties camera feeds with the city's computer-aided dispatch system providing real-time video streams to dispatch personnel and officers on the ground.

The system is only the beginning of a comprehensive public safety initiative spearheaded by West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel, which includes a "City-Cam" program to increase the number of cameras through partnerships with the business community and homeowners associations. Working under the supervision of the West Palm Beach Police Department, screened and trained civilian monitors will join a 400-strong police volunteer force to monitor real-time video feeds and alert police dispatch of any incidents.

"The reception from the public has been 100 percent favourable: we have already received 50 inquiries about joining the City-Cam program from neighbourhood associations, business and medical facilities," said Mayor Lois Frankel. "Involving the community was common sense: we knew we did not have the financial resources to buy all the cameras we need, so reaching out to the public is a logical next step."

"Video surveillance is another important tool in the fight against crime and our efforts to protect the public," said Assistant Chief of Police Willie Perez. "The system is a great 'officer safety tool' as well. For example, we have a request from a bank to join our Firetide wireless network, giving us visibility into the interior of the bank as officers are responding. So our officers will know what they are facing before they arrive on the scene. The capabilities of the system are fantastic, and we are just scratching the surface of what Firetide technology makes possible."

In the first phase of the network, the West Palm Beach Police Department set up a 13-camera system focused on the toughest neighbourhoods in this city of 100,000 residents in an effort to deter gang activity, drug dealing and prostitution. Seventeen Firetide mesh nodes connect the cameras to police headquarters, where video can be accessed by dispatch personnel and stored for evidentiary purposes. Each mesh node is coupled with a Firetide access point to allow access to video feeds from Wi-Fi enabled laptops in police cruisers, providing real-time situational awareness as officers respond to calls for service.

"We need a system that is robust and can expand rapidly, in line with the expansion plans set forth by the city," said Michael Cambisios, police communications manager for the city of West Palm Beach. "Our Firetide wireless network allows the police to reach into areas not accessible by fibre or cable, extending resources without increasing manpower."

Security 101 of Fort Lauderdale, designed and implemented the system after winning the project in a rigorous request for proposal process. "We have been in the wireless surveillance business for over three years and had prior experience with Firetide," said Jim Letang, senior account manager at Security 101. "For city-wide security deployments, Firetide delivers the greatest throughput and extremely fast deployment. The entire Firetide mesh and access network for the City of West Palm Beach was deployed in just two days."

The $420,000 system was financed through forfeiture funds available to the police under asset forfeiture laws, which allow for seized criminal property to be used for law enforcement purposes. The police are already realizing benefits from the system. While the network was being installed, footage from the cameras proved useful in conducting a drug bust and apprehending suspected criminals.

"West Palm Beach is a forward-thinking city intent on using the best technology to support first responders without overburdening taxpayers," said Bo Larsson, chief executive officer of Firetide. "The city's choice to deploy a Firetide wireless network not only validates that our technology affordably meets public safety needs today—specifically real-time video surveillance—but will meet evolving network requirements without breaking the bank. West Palm Beach certainly serves as an example to other midsize cities who may think that critical capabilities such as video surveillance are not within financial reach. They are, when enabled by Firetide."
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