Dallas Public Video Surveillance Examined

By John Honovich, Published Nov 11, 2009, 07:00pm EST

The Dallas Police Department has deployed wireless cameras to cover the central business district for the purpose of crime prevention. Based on an interview with the Police and a proposal document [link no longer available], the effectiveness of the amount of cameras versus the availability of monitoring personnel is put into question.

Funded primarily by the private sector, the Dallas Police Department has 32 PTZ and 8 fixed cameras strategically placed at downtown and recreational areas with 2 monitoring stations that have 24 hour staffing.

Although the surveillance program had perceived success (bus terminal robbery that was caught on video led to arrest) and crime decreased by 12%, the Dallas Police Department concedes that surveillance cameras were not the primary driver in the reduction of crime.

The Dallas Police department described the public and usability challenges that arose from the scope of this program:

  • Residents, civil liberties groups, and police officers themselves concerned about the possible invasion of privacy.
  • Upkeep of the cleaning of camera lenses after heavy rain.
  • Video quality of PTZ cameras in low light and extreme zoom levels.

The specific concern to a proposed expansion of the project was the effectiveness of the amount of cameras with the availability of staff that are able to actively monitor all footage. Funding is being pledged to expand the operation by 42 cameras and 2 additional monitoring stations.

In a surveillance camera proposal for the City of Dallas [link no longer available], the estimated cost was $250,000 per year to run a single monitoring station 24 hrs /7 days with part-time employees.

Does analytics provide the answer to increased effective monitoring? In this case, the majority of installed cameras are PTZs, of which would not be effective for analytics.  A pairing of fixed cameras to the PTZs could be installed to accommodate analytics, but the additional cost to the system would have to be weighed against the cost of adding  more monitoring personnel.  

For more coverage on the debate of CCTV monitoring effectiveness, please refer to the articles:

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