Philly's Cameras Cost 20x More Than Planned

By: Carlton Purvis, Published on Apr 22, 2013

Last year, the City of Philadelphia commissioned a review of its multi-million dollar surveillance system. In the planning stages, the system's cost was estimated at around $3,000 per camera, but the actual cost so far has been $136,000 per functioning camera at $13.9 million, with an additional $3.2 million awarded after the original contract for replacement cameras, repairs and maintenance, the audit found.

According to the 30-page final report, more than half (53%) of the city’s 216 surveillance cameras weren’t working. Of 20 cameras randomly selected by auditors, only nine could actually provide video images. Ten of them needed to be repaired or weren’t in use for unreported reasons. Additionally, the portable overt digital surveillance systems (PODSS), which were supposed to be moveable throughout the city to cover crime hot spots, haven’t moved since installation because they are “too heavy.”

The cameras were deployed as part of a massive anti-crime initiative called Operation Safer Streets with the objective of making “Philadelphia neighborhoods safer by providing police with another tool for fighting crime” (the city does not have any system to asses the impact of surveillance cameras on crime and referred questions about crime statistics to the police department. The audit found no correlation between the number of cameras in an area and the number of shootings).

The Contract

We've requested the RFP and contract for the project. Until we can see it, most of the details of the original contract come from a Unisys press release from 2007. The contract was for $8.9 million and included installation of 250 cameras with an option to deploy an additional 250. 

Messy Records 

Purchase, installation and maintenance is overseen by the city’s Office of Innovation and Technology. Not only did the audit find that the OIT wasn’t maintaining records properly, but many cameras that were purchased were never installed. The city was using AXIS and Sony cameras which were both under one-year warranties, according to the report, but because of poor record keeping, OIT doesn’t know which cameras they are and may have paid for repairs and replacements of cameras under still warranty. Several cameras from the original contract are still sitting in a warehouse unboxed.

The City Controller’s Office released a statement saying the project had problems from the beginning [link no longer available], including a vendor who had to be fired from the job for “unsatisfactory performance.” That vendor was Unisys. That contract was cancelled. And the city finished installing many of the cameras on its own [link no longer available]. 

Unisys said questions about the project should be directed to the city of Philadelphia repeating to us they have previously said about the contract: "Unisys is proud of the work the company performed under our contract with the City of Philadelphia ... Unisys fulfilled its obligations under the contact in 2009, after which the City took over deployment of the cameras."

The city says it has no plans to take oversight of the project from the OIT.

TimeSight

If the city is worried that TimeSight [link no longer available], the company that provided its video management software, ceased operations, it hasn't been mentioned in any reports. It's not clear if the city was aware of the status of the company at the time of contract or if camera malfunctions had anything to do with TimeSight software. 

Avoiding Questions

The OIT has been reluctant to answer technical questions about why the system doesn’t work. We contacted the office with a list of questions related to the system but both interviews were cancelled one day prior to their scheduled times. In February, city council met to discuss surveillance system ahead of a new report which has not been released. The controller’s office presented its findings [link no longer available], but no one from the mayor’s administration or the OIT made themselves available to speak at the meeting so there are still no clear answers for why so many cameras don’t work. 

The author of the audit told me he was only asked to look at the financial impact of the malfunctions, not the technical reasons behind them.

Huge Cost / Questionable Value

While city surveillance has become a hot topic in the wake of the Boston bombing, the extreme costs and significant issues in this project raise real concerns about the viability of such mega city designs.

Current Status 

After the meeting in February, a city spokesperson said only 155 cameras (70 percent) were working. That number was supposed to be 90 percent [link no longer available] by last September. The city’s press office told us the new audit will be released “sometime this month.”

 

Comments (2) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Cisco Video Surveillance Is Dead, Long Live Cisco Meraki Video Surveillance on Feb 11, 2020
A dozen years ago much of the industry thought that Cisco was destined to...
Dynamic vs Static IP Addresses Tutorial on Apr 16, 2020
While many cameras default to DHCP out of the box, that does not mean you...
TVT / InVid Facial Recognition Tested on Mar 25, 2020
Facial recognition is frequently sold for thousands of dollars per channel...
The US Fight Over Facial Recognition Explained on Jul 08, 2020
The controversy around facial recognition has grown significantly in 2020,...
Video Analytics 101 on Mar 16, 2020
This guide teaches the fundamentals of video surveillance...
Facial Recognition: Weak Sales, Anti Regulation, No Favorite, Says Security Integrators on Jul 07, 2020
While facial recognition has gained greater prominence, a new IPVM study of...
Face Shields Impact On Temperature Measurement And Mask Detection on Jul 27, 2020
First, the use of face masks, and now, plastic face shields are rising...
30 Million Criminal Face Database Tested (Captis Intelligence) on Apr 27, 2020
30 million criminal mugshots are now available for facial recognition...
Fever Camera Sales From Integrators Surveyed on Jun 01, 2020
Fever cameras are the hottest trend in video surveillance currently but how...
New Axis M30 Cameras Tested on Mar 26, 2020
Axis has released a new generation of, for them, relatively low cost M30...
Vivotek LPR Camera Tested on Apr 15, 2020
Vivotek has historically sold license plate capture cameras but not LPR. Now,...
Integrated IR Camera Shootout 2020 - Avigilon, Axis, Bosch, Dahua, Hanwha, Hikvision, Panasonic, Uniview, Vivotek on Jan 30, 2020
The best and worst cameras tested in this IPVM shootout showed major...
Camera Resolution Usage Statistics 2020 on Mar 12, 2020
The average resolution used, for new cameras, is now 4MP, according to new...
Milestone Presents XProtect On AWS on May 04, 2020
Milestone presented its XProtect on AWS offering at the April 2020 IPVM New...
Pivot3 Mass Layoffs on Mar 27, 2020
Pivot3 has conducted mass layoffs, the culmination of grand hopes, a quarter...

Recent Reports

Dangerous Hikvision Fever Camera Showcased by Chilean City on Aug 07, 2020
Deploying a fever camera outdoors, in the rain, with no black body, is...
"Grand Slam" For Pelco's PE Firm, A Risk For Motorola on Aug 07, 2020
The word "Pelco" and "grand slam" have not been said together for many years....
FLIR Stock Falls, Admits 'Decelerating' Demand For Temperature Screening on Aug 07, 2020
Is the boom going to bust for temperature screening? FLIR disappointed...
VSaaS Will Hurt Integrators on Aug 06, 2020
VSaaS will hurt integrators, there is no question about that. How much...
Dogs For Coronavirus Screening Examined on Aug 06, 2020
While thermal temperature screening is the surveillance industry's most...
ADT Slides Back, Disappointing Results, Poor Commercial Performance on Aug 06, 2020
While ADT had an incredible start to the week, driven by the Google...
AHJ / Authority Having Jurisdiction Tutorial on Aug 06, 2020
One of the most powerful yet often underappreciated characters in all of the...
SIA Coaches Sellers on NDAA 889B Blacklist Workarounds on Aug 05, 2020
Last month SIA demanded that NDAA 899B "must be delayed". Now that they have...
ADI Returns To Growth, Back To 'Pre-COVID Levels' on Aug 05, 2020
While ADI was hit hard in April, with revenue declining 21%, the company's...
Exposing Fever Tablet Suppliers and 40+ Relabelers on Aug 05, 2020
IPVM has found 40+ USA and EU companies relabeling fever tablets designed,...
Indian Government Restricts PRC Manufacturers From Public Projects on Aug 04, 2020
In a move that mirrors the U.S. government’s ban on Dahua and Hikvision...
Directory of 201 "Fever" Camera Suppliers on Aug 04, 2020
This directory provides a list of "Fever" scanning thermal camera providers...
Face Masks Increase Face Recognition Errors Says NIST on Aug 04, 2020
COVID-19 has led to widespread facemask use, which as IPVM testing has shown...
Dahua Loses Australian Medical Device Approval on Aug 04, 2020
Dahua has cancelled its medical device registration after "discussions" with...
Google Invests in ADT, ADT Stock Soars on Aug 03, 2020
Google has announced a $450 million investment in the Florida-based security...