Police Buys FLIR at Costco, Industry's Worst Fear

Author: Brian Karas, Published on Mar 04, 2016

Integrators: cut your prices or your customers are going to go around you.

That is the lesson of a recent California police department whose choose a FLIR brand, Lorex, as their (at least temporary) jail solution.

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Comments (40)

"To further save costs, the cameras are being installed by a county work crew."

In my county, 'work crews' are composed of inmates and those doing community service time. I just wanted to emphasize the irony here.

Meh it'll work out like garage door openers...consumer ones are crap. But professional and they're much better

"consumer ones are crap. But professional and they're much better"

To play devil's advocate, this class of equipment is basically the same as low end Hikvision / ADI W Box that dealers are buying by the truck load.

Wow... What's next, them sewing their own Kevlar vests and uniforms?
I Agree - I would suggest that the Lorex cameras bought today are as good if not better than the most popular pro brands sold 2 or 3 years ago at ADI or Tried etc. and in the future that time gap is getting shorter and shorter. My question is what can be done about I?

I would suggest that the Lorex cameras bought today are as good if not better than the most popular pro brands sold 2 or 3 years ago at ADI or Tried etc

In fairness, most of what you got 2-3 years ago was still standard analog unless you were dumping a LOT of cash... today just about everything available is HD of one form or another, and even the cheapest gear has better image quality than the best analog of a few years ago.

My question is what can be done about I<sic>?

Value-added service.

My question is what can be done about I<sic>[sic]?

I see this all the time.

Steve, can you elaborate? Curious what you are seeing? How well does it work?

Smaller local and state agencies and governments are really strapped for funds right now and I am asked constantly what the cost difference between professional and consumer grade camera systems entails. There was a time when I would always caution them to stay away from lower priced, low resolution, high probability to fail, off the shelf systems. But today there are several 8 and 16 camera systems, that for the price you can replace those systems 4-5 times before you come close to the proposals they are seeing from security companies. I have received some of the bloated proposals security companies have sent us, and its crazy. But with the margins in the industry getting so much smaller due to lower priced equipment I understand. That being said from my perspective I have to be able to justify a low priced solution to a much higher priced professional solution, and unfortunately for a lot of small installations the smaller NVR systems more than meet their needs.

The problems outlined in this article really wont be an issue for a system that cost less than $1000. First there jail facilities across the nation that little to no surveillance, so there is not added liability enhancement because it is a correctional facility. Common sense says there should be great camera systems in every police/corrections facility but there are not. More than likely there is 1 or 2 guys in that facility that will know how to operate and run the system, and if a camera breaks they will just replace it. Service will be done by someone on staff, and if more storage is needed they will add it to the system. So far as 2-5 years worth of video storage, maybe Federal facilities do that, but no court would find that is has to be accessible years down the line without a specific need. What I mean by that is if there is an incident, its exported and saved, but even in felony cases if an inmate didn't report an incident until 5 years later the facility would not be bound to produce a recording if it was outside their normal archive time.

This is just what I see as a Detective who works surveillance every day, and answers questions from numerous departments about cameras and systems. I am by no means an expert, and I am always open to new and better ways to get things done.

Public officials with this kind of initiative and ability to learn and succeed are definitely under-appreciated by the public. Thank you for your service, Officer Gowan.

So much for laying out a system design, collecting bids and reviewing proposals.

The Costco system is not being purchased instead of the $20 million system, it's being purchased in addition to.

As all the operational deficiencies that have been noted so far manifest themselves, this will only strengthen the integrators hand for the 'real' system.

As opposed to if they had never actually went to Costco, but only made snide off hand remarks about how they should have.

The Costco system is not being purchased instead of the $20 million system, it's being purchased in addition to.

That's certainly the intended approach they have in mind today.

The potential problem for whoever bids or wins the $20M system is if this "temporary" install is deemed "good enough" in any significant way. IMO it's very likely the storage issue will be seen as the first major deficiency. Then possibly lack of simultaneous viewers/clients (something I thought of after the initial article). They may also find that vandal-proof cameras are warranted.

But now whoever is trying to sell that $20M system has a HUGE gap to close from the $63/channel base price that the end-user has in their heads.

I think over time we've all seen "temporary" things that have gone on to be permanent, not just in security. Sometimes you get something installed and then you realize the cost of replacing it/doing it "right" no longer seems justified or high priority.

IMO this equipment being available online or in Costco and featuring the FLIR brand in a predominant way makes a little more of an uphill battle for the average integrator.

A friend of mine was experiencing chest pains. So he went to a cardiologist who checked out his health -- blood work, stress tests, various scans, etc. Of all the things that could possibly be wrong with him, she diagnosed a blocked coronary artery. Of all the ways to address a blocked coronary artery, she decided the best course of action for him was a stent.

The cost of the procedure, including the doctor putting the stent in the exact proper place and follow up to make sure it was working properly, would be $25,000. What a ripoff!

Instead, my friend bought a stent online for $25.00 and is having his nursing student son install it. In the case of trouble, they plan to call the stent company technical line for support.

An exaggeration? Perhaps.

My advice to integrators is to STOP SELLING CAMERAS. Instead, sell your expertise and experience regarding threat analysis, surveillance design/visualization services, installation/placement/optics expertise, network engineering, storage management, training, repair, and maintenance. And, also, integration with other systems the customer may have. And these services come bundled with the professional-grade cameras you carry.

Sure, maybe your customer can buy that WhizbangModel X camera for less elsewhere, but it was your expertise that was able to make that recommendation in the first place.

And, while not a factor in the newspaper article, don't carry cameras your customer can shop online!

Amazing how calling it a "FLIR security system" sounds so much better than "Costco Camera Kit"...

I hate to quote myself, but I run into the problem of extremely price sensitive customers with high end security needs all the time, and so I wrote this detailing how a salesperson should proceed in that situation.

Sorry about the self promotion.

Extremely time-sensitive customer.

Sounds like they're ok with the money,

Time sensitive is price sensitive. If time is money, after all, then money must be time.

You need to look the customer in the eye and explain exactly why your system is worth waiting for, just as you need to look the customer in the eye and explain why your system is worth spending more money on.

You need to look the customer in the eye and explain exactly why your system is worth waiting for, just as you need to look the customer in the eye and explain why your system is worth spending more money on.

Ari, they have already agreed to get the new system. This is in addition.

It's not the same as someone buying one system instead of the other.

To play devil's advocate, nothing is decided until the check clears.

I think it's highly likely they end up installing a "professional" system. I also think that it's highly likely *this* system will have an impact on what the final system ends up looking like.

Two most likely ways this will affect the larger system:

1) Sheriff feels the cheap cameras are "good enough" and total budget for new system gets reduced

2) Sheriff realizes limitations of this system and new system gets evaluated more thoroughly or even upgraded based on their experiences with the Lorex system.

It's hard to measure, and we'll likely never know for sure, but I feel strongly that there is no way this Lorex system will NOT impact the final deployment. Even 4 years ago it would have been highly unlikely the Sheriff could have cost effectively purchased and installed something with a 1080p resolution.

"These Costco cameras are not a panacea," Draper said. "It's an interim system."

Hopefully; not hey! These kickass! Let's save money and install these.

This is just the beginning...once the IOT evolution/revolution unfolds sensors from A-Z will make everyone an expert in hanging something off a network.

At that point your value add had better be at the beginning of the food chain vs an RFP.

The sidebar to this story is the fact that this same jail currently has 3 of their own former correctional officers on trial for murder - they (allegedly) beat to death a mentally ill inmate in this facility.

So, the sheriff wanted cameras - and learned that not only would the cost be as described above - but that the process could take up to 2 years to complete.

The sheriff needed something now to show she was taking steps to make sure this kind of thing couldn't happen again. The civil lawsuits they will certainly face once the criminal trials are over will be significant - and not having cameras installed for 2 years could certainly be used by the litigants attorneys to show that the sheriff has done nothing to try and prevent future beatings/killings.

So, I don't think this situation is any kind of harbinger of what integrators will see in the foreseeable future - at least when it comes to federal/state/local govt facilities.

I agree to what you are saying; she thinks she is buying a little time. However, if successful, media reports could portray that these type of systems are viable for a solution such as a jail system. Then again, how successful is successful to the non-integrator?

If the Lorex high-definition 1080-pixel system is as effective as advertised at capturing details like the faces of guards and inmates, the sheriff plans to buy more to bridge the gap until the county installs a better system in 2018.

Unfortunately, media reporting these types of comments, in my opinion, could have an impact in the foreseeable feature for integrators.

I don't disagree with that reasoning - and the cynic in me makes me question the timing of that fight that broke out.... the day after the sheriff installed her Costco kit.... as the news crew had just entered the building.... and the sheriff 'expects to be reimbursed' for her purchase...ummmm - what a nice coincidence... ;)

As many have stated - across many strings here at IPVM - if you just sell cameras and NVRs you should probably be very worried, as these types of media stories will erode your customer base (for the reasons you noted). If anyone can do what you do, they will.

What is 'good enough' can be is always going to be subjective - educating customers on what this 'good enough' threshold has to be for their particular application is the only way to show the actual value of using professional integrators and equipment, imo.

Local retired judge who heads the commission established to review the jail after the inmate was beaten to death questions the timing of the 'brawl' and allegedly tells the media that she thinks it was staged by sheriffs deputies.

Several years ago, right before our state budget tanked "HARD" A new police chief asked me if we could improve safety operations in our coliseum with cameras. I was excited about the idea. I was aware of the force multiplying effects and how useful video can be in event management as well as criminal investigation. We had no cameras at all and I was told that whatever we did needed to be done below the price threshold that would trigger the long and more complicated procurement process.

I, knowing nothing at all about cameras, found and ordered an 8 camera analogue set with a DVR that came very much complete. The week it arrived the budget died. It was so bad that I was told that we had a great idea, but we can't even pay for our own facilities folks to install it.

I got to learn more about camera systems than I expected. Two of us, me and another police officer, did the installation. I actually got pretty good support from the company and we were successful atgetting things working. For me learning about using baluns and cat 5 to carry signal beyond the normal range of the coax was kind of cool. Repeatedly climbing a ladder to work in the drop ceiling and working on a catwalk 70+ feet off the floor were also not my favorite new things.

Once it was working it nearly paid for itself in the first month. Damage done, and denied, by an outside contractor was recorded. We were able to save the school around $1500. The facility staff was so impressed that they also invested in almost the same system. The difference in their purchase was that we saw that our lower end cameras were better suited for small rooms and were of limited benefit so they went with only four cameras, and chose better cameras.

Bottom line: Between the two Purchases we had just over $5,000 in putting up and recording 12 cameras in a facility that had previously had none. These two systems functioned fairly well for over 7 years with a few minor replacements. One replacement had a big impact. We replaced one of the cameras in the large seated area with a pretty capable PTZ. As you all surely know the difference in utility for that application was amazing. Our whole campus was growing into the regular use of video surveillance during this time (hundred's of thousands of dollars being invested) and we learned a good bit from this small, cheap,system. Primarily we learned that there are very real, demonstrable, benefits to having good video when trying to provide a safe environment. We also learned that we needed more and better equipment.

The coliseum is currently being renovated/rebuilt in a very major way. Capable, well specified, IP video surveillance is part of the design plan in order to provide for public safety event management and a physical security measure for the property.

So our box set was enormously better than nothing at all. But I suspect the jail purchase will also eventually lead to officials with the purse strings realizing the benefits of video along with the responsibility to do it in an effective way.

Think of the audit findings opportunities here. Wrong people touching government infrastructure. Uninsured staff on ladders. Non-low voltage techs likely touching the fire suppression system. Probably touching the public internet too. Who knows if the gear has the proper UL approvals.

"What could go wrong?"

I get it LE needs tools to do their job and we all want them doing their job, well. But painting a "Inmate lawyers, please file suit here" on your back might not be the right path...

Also who gave the sherriff the power to touch the walls of the building? Is that assumed? Are they king of the universe on those grounds? Does the fire marshall agree?

* Breaking News *

A fight at the prison was caught on their new system.

See the video here...

https://www.yahoo.com/news/video/newly-installed-cameras-show-massive-084836770.html

Prisoners riot after learning cameras are lacking 'true' WDR...

4, thanks, that video makes it even more bizarre. This system went in 'where the most violent inmates were held', what???

Another video from Youtube, not as good but can be embedded:

In addition to the $700 for the system, is the time for the labor to install. The video above shows that it took more than 1 person, a lift was required, etc.

Of course, they are running the cable without protecting them, etc. We will see what happens if an inmate pulls a length of cable down and uses it as a weapon...

I'm not surprised honestly most stuff these days is plug and play... most people don't want to pay "full price" for a company to come in and install a system, so they end up with dodgy integrators and they tend to be full of crap so the temptation gets the best of the customer and off they go :)

if the system stops or does not perform it's not and external integrators fault it's the actual institution/government... it's justified by "we only spent x dollars so we have got our x amount of value" and generally when they look at having nothing vs something.. it's not hard to choose which way to go.

I think a major factor in this is mentioned right off the top:

The Mercury News article highlights a common set of problems: delays, high costs, bureaucratic red tape - issues often associated with government projects. Integrators who bid on government projects are likely used to bid process paperwork, price sensitivity and long delays in getting projects approved and paid.

Besides the issues of trying to fit a "proper" system into the budget, there's the issue of the time frame it can take for something like this to get through all the channels (with no guarantee of it ever being approved).

So if a department of, say, a dozen cops, can kick in $100 each out of their own pockets to get a $1000 package (plus whatever necessary extras), and maybe have a couple of the more tech-savvy members come in on the weekend to slap it all in on their own time... it's a small price price for them to pay to cover their own asses, especially if there have been incidents in the past that left any of them with their integrity or professionalism being questioned.

Maybe six months down the road, the wheels turn and they get that big skookum system they were asking for... then maybe the old system gets donated to a school, or even just left in place as a "backup". Meanwhile, the guys working there have had six extra months of maybe a little extra peace of mind.

...they get that big skookum system they were asking for... then maybe the old system gets donated to a school, or even just left in place as a "backup".

Though, the danger may be they decide to "chuck the skookum" system altogether...

At the end of the day there isn't enough money, period.

Champagne dreams, beer budget.

Cities have a bigger achilles heal, PENSIONS.

If this cuts through the red tape and saves some money for potholes, pensions, etc., they're ahead of the game.

Technology has consistently over promised and under delivered.

Every few years they can rip and replace at a fraction of the high end solution.

5G wireless will change everything...hours of video streams transmitted in seconds.

$20 says those cameras are ripped down and the mounts turned into shanks.

I would take that bet, but, even behind a computer here in Hawaii, I can get jailed for gambling.

This is more about management incompetence vs. lack of institutional controls vs budgets.....

Sheriff will be kicked to the curb...someone more politically skilled will replace her and down the road they'll put a real system in...

Same issue re: surveillance(or lack there of) in most corrections facilities...

LMAO....its pretty clear everyone will find what they want to find about the Sheriffs purchase. Actually for the money invested the Lorex low-end system is very decent. I've been running a four camera system at my home for six months. It is good compared to the other cheap systems available.

The burning issue is that the sheriff was wise for the money spent. The Lorex gives her plenty of time to learn the security short coming issues presented. It gives her the smarts to intelligently purchase a high-end system when funds are available.

Give her a break she deserves it for her wisdom on the initial purchase. Too bad Washington DC has no common sense.

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