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Wireless eyes watch for crime: video surveillance in out-of-the-way places made possible with next-generation network.

For the past few years, Atlanta's midtown has undergone a renaissance, with growth in office space, retail businesses and residents. Crime, however, was a problem. The Midtown Blue Safety Force was formed and has played an integral role in helping businesses and homeowners reduce the area's overall crime rate by approximately 30 percent.

In 2005, Wayne Mock was hired to be Midtown Blue's public safety manager and homeland security coordinator. Mock's mission was to improve response time to public safety, traffic and homeland security incidents. Despite the progress made in putting Midtown Blue officers on the streets, crimes were still being committed off the beaten path in Midtown. Mock reasoned that if officers could not be everywhere all the time, electronic eyes could.

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Midtown Blue is a 24/7 private security force of off-duty Atlanta police officers established to augment the Atlanta Police Department's services by patrolling Midtown Atlanta streets and sidewalks to better ensure public safety.

The primary goals of the program are to:

* provide immediate response to emergencies and criminal activities occurring in the Midtown district;

* increase the perception and reality of safe streets with high visibility and continuous patrols;

* assist the police department in enforcing city ordinances and codes; and

* provide limited enforcement of parking regulations.

The force's patrols on Midtown's streets and pedestrian corridors allow for quicker response time on calls for service from the Midtown community. To this end, Midtown Blue monitors the Atlanta Police Department's 911 call center and reports activities within the Midtown Blue service area back to the Atlanta Police Department. Midtown Blue also works with building managers, businesses and community organizations to coordinate and share information about unlawful activity and security issues. Even this group, however, cannot be everywhere that crime occurs.

"About a year ago, we began investigating the idea of installing surveillance cameras to monitor high-crime areas," explains Mock. "The idea was to put 'eyes in the sky' on some of the more out-of-the-way places of the city."

Placing surveillance cameras in dark alleys and empty lots was not a problem, but finding a communications link to deliver real-time video to monitors in Midtown Blue headquarters proved to be a challenge.

Midtown Blue first turned to BellSouth (now AT&T) for a solution, only to discover that besides being cost-prohibitive, the Baby Bell only provided service to specific addresses. That did not meet Midtown Blue's goal of monitoring the city's nooks and crannies where many crimes were being committed. In addition, there were significant delays in service, too much down time and slow response time for service issues.

Since traditional broadband carriers did not reach the locations where Midtown Blue needed to deploy surveillance cameras, alternative carrier One Ring Networks was tapped to provide a fixed wireless solution to relay video images from cameras placed where crimes most frequently occur to monitors observed by Midtown Blue.

"We chose One Ring Networks for its ability to provide service to hard-to-reach sites, affordability, capability to deliver images in real time and quick service response time," says Mock.

The decision to go with One Ring Networks was reached after several site visits and demonstrations of the company's hybrid fiber and fixed-wireless solution. One Ring Networks operates one of the largest hybrid fiber-fixed wireless networks in the United States, and is one of the few carriers offering end-to-end telecommunications and networking services without relying on other companies' networks. The hybrid network solution with fail-over capability provides the diversity needed to ensure 100 percent uptime, which is crucial to Midtown Blue's charter to stop crimes in progress. The Midtown Blue project presented several technical challenges that necessitated innovative approaches. The project required that One Ring Networks provide 10 Mbps of through put to pole-mounted cameras. Due to the high-bandwidth demand and the physical constraints of mounting on a pole, technical team members decided to use wireless backhaul. This simple decision had a variety of consequences.

First, the cameras are designed to work with a traditional wired Ethernet network, which is full duplex. Unfortunately, radios are half duplex, which meant that-from a radio capacity standpoint-One Ring Networks needed to deliver greater than 10 Mbps of throughput half duplex in order to get an experience similar to 10-Mbps full duplex.

Second, wireless backhaul requires line-of-sight (LOS) to each camera location. The unusual locations where the camera traffic had to be backhauled did not have LOS to each camera. This meant that One Ring Networks needed to put multiple wireless backhauls together in order to complete the circuit.

This ultimately led to a third problem-capacity. For each camera that did not have LOS to the head-end location, One Ring Networks attempted to aggregate onto other roofs. The amount of backhaul capacity required for those additional roofs was well in excess of what common wireless gear can achieve. This led the deployment team to make use of millimeter-wave radios capable of 1 Gbps, thus providing the capacity to service the current set of cameras along with ones that may be added in the future.

Midtown Blue now has 23 surveillance cameras throughout Midtown Atlanta. Officers on duty at headquarters can monitor high-crime areas in real time. This has enabled Midtown Blue to provide quicker response and combat crime to ensure public safety.

"The camera surveillance program has already played a major role in reducing crime," Mock offers. "We're looking to significantly increase the number of cameras deployed before the end of the year. Midtown Blue will continue to deploy the latest technology to address crime and to prepare for possible terror threats."
COPYRIGHT 2007 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Focus: Wireless; Midtown Blue
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Words:926
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