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.


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.


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.


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

Latest London Police Facial Recognition Suffers Serious Issues on Feb 24, 2020
On February 20, IPVM visited another live face rec deployment by London police, but this time the system was thwarted by technical problems and...
London Live Police Face Recognition Visited on Feb 13, 2020
London police have officially begun using live facial recognition in select areas of the UK capital, sparking significant controversy. IPVM...
Kidnapping Victim Rescued With Video From Ring Doorbell Camera on May 24, 2019
A kidnapping victim was rescued within 24 hours, with the police crediting video from a Ring Doorbell camera as key to solving the case. A girl was...
Bank Security Manager Interview on May 15, 2019
Bank security contends with many significant threats - from fraudsters to robbers and more. In this interview, IPVM spoke with bank security...
Mining Company Security Manager Interview on May 10, 2019
First Quantum Minerals Limited (FQML) is a global enterprise with offices on 4 continents and operations in 7 countries with exploratory operations...
Restaurant Security Manager Interview on May 06, 2019
Wright’s Gourmet House in Tampa, Florida has been around for over 50 years. During most of that time, there were no security measures in place. Now...
Bastille Cell Phone Tracking Profile on Apr 30, 2019
Is tracking someone by their cellphone the next generation of surveillance? Bastille is a US startup which tracks people by their cellphone or...
Verkada Wins $783,000 Memphis Deal on Apr 29, 2019
The US city, most famous in video surveillance for standardizing on Hikvision, has issued an RFQ for 962 Verkada cameras due Wednesday, May 1,...
Casino Security Consultant Carl Lindgren Interview on Mar 26, 2019
For more than 20 years, Carl Lindgren worked as a casino surveillance pro, while being active (and sometimes outspoken) on various online video...
Large Hospital Security End User Interview on Mar 21, 2019
This large single-state healthcare system consists of many hospitals, and hundreds of health parks, private practices, urgent care facilities, and...

Most Recent Industry Reports

LIVE NOW "Fever Camera" Show on Jun 02, 2020
IPVM is excited for the world's first "Fever Camera" show, to be held today Tuesday, June 2nd and Wednesday the 3rd from 11am to 4pm EDT, giving...
Smart Entry Systems Presents Cloud Multi-Tenant Access Control on Jun 02, 2020
Smart Entry Systems presented Cloud Multi-Tenant Access Control at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A 30-minute video...
Genetec Drops Support for Dahua and Hikvision on Jun 01, 2020
Genetec has dropped support for Dahua and Hikvision, citing US blacklisting and ONVIF conformance blockage, the company informed partners in an...
Dotty "Hot Or Not" Elevated Body Temperature App Tested on Jun 01, 2020
What if you could take an existing phone or tablet and transform it into "fever camera"? That is what DottyAR is doing with their strangely named...
Optris "Fever Screening Systems" Examined on Jun 01, 2020
German manufacturer Optris has been building temperature measuring instruments for industrial manufacturing for over 15 years, and thermal cameras...
Fever Camera Sales From Integrators Surveyed on Jun 01, 2020
Fever cameras are the hottest trend in video surveillance currently but how much are integrators selling them? 220 integrators answered the...
Proxy Presents Mobile Credentials For BLE Devices and Access on May 29, 2020
Proxy presented Mobile Credentials For BLE Devices and Access at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A 30-minute video...
ISC West 2020 Moves To The Basement on May 29, 2020
The twice cancelled/postponed show will now not only be held in a different month (October) but on a different floor, moving down to the...
Integrators Avoiding Coronavirus Air Travel on May 29, 2020
IPVM asked integrators if air travel is part of their 2020 plans to see how significantly Coronavirus will impact future...
Viakoo Presents Cyber Hygiene for Cameras on May 28, 2020
Viakoo presented its 'Cyber Hygiene' and 'Service Assurance' products at the April 2020 IPVM New Products show. Inside this report: A...