Court System Surveillance Challenges

By Carlton Purvis, Published on Oct 21, 2013

Tyco Integrated Security is contracted to do all the installation, maintenance and monitoring for the court system of a major U.S. city. They watch and maintain around 1800 cameras across 180 courtrooms. We talked to an operator about the day to day operations of the system, what it takes to keep the cameras running and what the most common problems and crimes are.

Why Tyco Monitors the System

“This system is so complex that it would be expensive for the courts to have to hire and train someone just to install the system, then people to maintain the system and then people to operate it,” our source says. It is more cost effective for the city to contract out all the tasks intead of possibly dealing with many different companies. 

Additionally, it is an arduous process to become an operator for the court system, he said. Because they are in the presence of public officials and because they are guarding government buildings, the screening process is strict. They are not only screened by Tyco, but also the U.S. Marshals.

A Typical Day For an Operator

A typical day for an operator consists of live monitoring for an hour, maintenance for an hour (including camera adjustments, cleaning and repositioning), and paperwork for an hour (ordering new parts, maintenance reports). This rotation continues for an 8-hour shift.

They are typically pulling footage everyday for investigations into complaints or, the most common incidents -- cell phone theft.

Most Common Crime

The number one reason footage is reviewed is for missing mobile phones. Either someone set their phone down and walks off without it, then claims it is stolen or someone actually does steal the phone.

Installation

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

About 10 percent of the job is installation. This includes replacing cameras or upgrades to parts of the system. Many of the buildings are undergoing renovation so that is where most of the new installs are concentrated.

Maintenance

Areas undergoing renovation are also where a lot of maintenance, which comprises 60 percent of the job, is concentrated as well. “We work under the assumption that all of the cameras need to be working 24/7. So maintenance and repairs are always ongoing,” he said. There is also a planned maintenance schedule that is strictly adhered to.

Biggest Maintenance Issue

“A lot of it is destruction from other contractors [because of renovations]." Whether it’s power outages or something else, there are always issues that come from all the construction that bleed over into the security arena,” he said.

Another reason the work was contracted to Tyco was the need for someone who could be there all the time because outages are common from both weather and construction. The outages are particularly hard on the system because it puts the system in undiscoverable mode and cameras start to drop out for no reason. “Then you have to crash the system and restart it again,” he said.

Backup power was recently installed so that should alleviate some of the blackout problems.

Monitoring

The remaining 30 percent of the job he says is monitoring. The 1800 cameras are watched by 20-30 people -- a mix of Tyco employees and court security officers -- from a large control room. All of the cameras in the system can be monitored live, but not all cameras on the system are recording, but he says they have enough cameras laid out that “every footstep a person takes” in the courts is recorded.

Special Interest Areas

One of the areas where surveillance is most important is prisoner transport. “We videotape them from the time they get off the bus to when the get turned over to the Marshals from the Metro Police Department. Every stop of the way, even in the holding cells, there are cameras to make sure everything is done correctly,” he said. The cameras are used for both investigating claims against the Marshals and clearing them of accusations. Despite working alongside police officers, he says Tyco operates as a neutral party when it comes to crimes. “We just provide the video of what happened,” he said.

Cameras and VMS

The system uses Bosch fixed and PTZ cameras both inside and outside. “Ninety-six percent of the cameras are Bosch, but we do have some Pelcos and Honeywells,” he said. The system currently uses Bosch Video Management System v.4.5 [link no longer available] and OnGuard is being phased in.

Convenience Cameras

The system also has what he called convenience cameras. Those are cameras that allow a judge who is inside his chambers to see who is outside the door in the hallway.

Operator Frustrations

The system is not very intuitive for operators and he says it takes a few years to get used to all of the ways to find and use all of its features. Initially you have training from the manufacturer, which is excellent, but for the average person who doesn’t have a lot of experience it’s overwhelming,” he said. “The software has thousands of little choices ... but you learn over time there are far easier ways to do the same thing.”

Comments (16) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

Mexico Video Surveillance Market Overview 2020 on Oct 20, 2020
Despite being neighbors, there are key differences between the U.S. and...
Remote Network Access for Video Surveillance Guide on Jul 27, 2020
Remotely accessing surveillance systems is key in 2020, with more and more...
Converged vs Dedicated Networks For Surveillance Tutorial on Feb 12, 2020
Use the existing network or deploy a new one? This is a critical choice in...
Convergint Coronavirus Cuts on Mar 25, 2020
One of the world's largest security integrators, Convergint, has made a major...
VSaaS Will Hurt Integrators on Aug 06, 2020
VSaaS will hurt integrators, there is no question about that. How much...
Help Security End Users Facing Coronavirus Improve Remote Access on Mar 24, 2020
Many end-users and integrators are struggling with the impact of coronavirus...
30 Million Criminal Face Database Tested (Captis Intelligence) on Apr 27, 2020
30 million criminal mugshots are now available for facial recognition...
YOLOv5 Released Amidst Controversy on Jul 27, 2020
YOLO has gained significant attention within video surveillance for its...
The US Fight Over Facial Recognition Explained on Jul 08, 2020
The controversy around facial recognition has grown significantly in 2020,...
AHJ / Authority Having Jurisdiction Tutorial on Aug 06, 2020
One of the most powerful yet often underappreciated characters in all...
Verkada Disruptive Embedded Live Help on Sep 24, 2020
Call up your integrator? Have someone come by the next day? Verkada is...
Dedicated Vs Converged IP Video Networks Statistics 2020 on Sep 10, 2020
Running one's video system on a converged network with other devices can save...
Verkada Access Control Tested on Sep 09, 2020
Verkada raised $80 million earlier in 2020, expanding from video into access...
Video Surveillance History on May 06, 2020
The video surveillance market has changed significantly since 2000, going...
Surveillance Storage 101 on Mar 23, 2020
This guide teaches the fundamentals of video surveillance...

Recent Reports

Bedside Cough and Sneeze Detector (Sound Intelligence and CLB) on Oct 28, 2020
Coronavirus has increased interest in detecting symptoms such as fever and...
Fever Tablet Thermal Sensors Examined (Melexis) on Oct 28, 2020
Fever tablet suppliers heavily rely on the accuracy and specs of...
Verkada Fires 3 on Oct 28, 2020
Verkada has fired three employees over an incident where female colleagues...
Recruiters Online Show LIVE Thursday! on Oct 27, 2020
IPVM's 7th online show resumes Thursday with 12 recruiters presenting...
Eagle Eye Networks Raises $40 Million on Oct 27, 2020
Eagle Eye has raised $40 million aiming to "reinvent video...
Hikvision Q3 2020 Global Revenue Rises, US Revenue Falls on Oct 27, 2020
While Hikvision's global revenue rises driven by domestic recovery, its US...
VICE Investigates Verkada's Harassing "RawVerkadawgz" on Oct 26, 2020
This month, IPVM investigated Verkada's sexism, discrimination, and cultural...
Six Flags' FDA Violating Outdoor Dahua Fever Cameras on Oct 26, 2020
As Six Flags scrambled to reopen parks amid plummeting revenues caused by the...
ISC Brasil Digital Experience 2020 Report on Oct 23, 2020
ISC Brasil 2020 rebranded itself to ISC Digital Experience and, like its...
Top Video Surveillance Service Call Problems 2020 on Oct 23, 2020
3 primary and 4 secondary issues stood out as causing the most problems when...
GDPR Impact On Temperature / Fever Screening Explained on Oct 22, 2020
What impact does GDPR have on temperature screening? Do you risk a GDPR fine...
Security And Safety Things (S&ST) Tested on Oct 22, 2020
S&ST, a Bosch spinout, is spending tens of millions of dollars aiming to...
Nokia Fever Screening Claims To "Advance Fight Against COVID-19" on Oct 22, 2020
First IBM, then briefly Clorox, and now Nokia becomes the latest Fortune 500...
Deceptive Meridian Temperature Tablets Endanger Public Safety on Oct 21, 2020
IPVM's testing of and investigation into Meridian Kiosk's temperature...
Honeywell 30 Series and Vivotek NVRs Tested on Oct 21, 2020
The NDAA ban has driven many users to look for low-cost NVRs not made by...