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Next-generation video surveillance comes to Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

J. D. Sartain | Sept. 25, 2014
Video surveillance pops up all over the globe -- and not just to identify suspects in crimes or terrorist activities. Retail stores use video surveillance to record customers' shopping patterns. County governments watch traffic flow for better road design. Schools and corporations monitor classrooms and offices. Police officers now wear body cameras. Video is everywhere, capturing millions of hours of activity.

The sheriff's office is now prepared to scale from 5.5 petabytes of storage to 30 petabytes, Rector says, adding, "The new system is 10 times faster than the previous legacy equipment, even though the data now captured and archived has increased."

Deployment: Jails Never Close, Systems Can't Shut Down

Installing the new technology "while the facilities were operational, fully populated with inmates, and side-by-side with the legacy system" presented the biggest deployment challenge, Jones says. "With over 8,500 inmates in our facilities, there was no real way to shut down a site to allow for installation."

The sheriff's office kicked off the 18-week installation plan six months ago. Two facilities are fully operational now; the rest will come online soon. Control rooms, supervisors' offices, jail administration and medical clinics are among the areas receiving improved viewing stations and access to the system. Pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) cameras were added to housing units, and more than 100 new cameras, some with low-light technology, were installed in the Tent City Jail to increase coverage and offer greater Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) incident exposure.

Benefits: Scalability, Performance Beget Fast Video Retrieval

Rector says DDN lets the sheriff's office "reset drives on the fly," which in turn lets the facility adopt a "set it and forget it" approach. DDN storage also integrates with the virtual memory system (VMS) platforms at other correctional facilities. The department also achieved "redundancy beyond redundancy" through redundant power supplies and RAID 6 active/active storage controllers, Rector says.

In addition, the sheriff's office benefits from high-speed retrieval of HD footage. Officers can now pull 12 hours of full-HD video in 17 minutes; previously, it took three hours to get low-quality video. Finally, the aforementioned scalable storage, combined with real-time bandwidth and optimized delivery of low-latency access to spinning (HDD) and flash (SSD) media, give the department best-in-class input/output operations per second (IOPS) performance, Rector says.

Advice: Involve Everyone, Ask Questions, 'Don't Trust the Salesman'

Jones says the sheriff's office learned many lessons during the research and design phases — and many more during implementation. "The most important: Involve as many people in your industry as feasibly possible," he says. Don't rely on just the technical experience to design and deploy such a critical system. Don't rely on the administrators to design the system. Talk to the line staff and include some of [it] as well."

Improved technology can change the culture of America's jails, Jones says — but only if the best internal technical experts, detention housing and operational experts, and the facility's employees are involved. Listen to your staff, he says. Also heeds regulations such as the PREA and the Department of Justice Limited English Proficiency requirements, which will improve their daily lives and duties of employees.


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