The Challenge: Proactive Support for Officers and Communities
Part of the impetus for Austin Police Department’s public safety camera project was the economy. Volatility in the U.S. economy challenged many public sector organizations across the country to hesitate before spending precious budget funds. The APD was working hard to stretch its budget allocation as far as it would go. The public safety cameras offered a way to do just that.
The APD venture is officially known as the HALO Public Safety Camera Project. HALO is short for High Activity Location Observation and is part of an ongoing effort to reduce crime in “hotspot” areas in central Austin.
“We saw it as a way to proactively support the feet on the street, so to speak, to aid our officers in surveillance, crime deterrence and emergency response,” says Gay. “We started down the path of seeking grants and seed money to fund a surveillance system.”
APD was quickly successful in receiving two grants totaling US$600,000 for phases I and II, for the Rundberg and downtown district cameras. Along with the startup funds, the department assembled a team to gather requirements for the project and evaluate potential vendor solutions. The team took to task researching technologies and reviewing proof-of-concept demonstrations, after which vendors were scored and ranked. Avrio ranked No. 1 and awarded the bid for the project.
Today, Avrio is a Hitachi company, housed in Hitachi’s public safety and smart city solutions group. The group’s mission is to make safer, smarter, more efficient cities, by combining advanced video, sensor and network technology for comprehensive public safety solutions, or, in other words, connected intelligence. Avrio brings to the table expert wireless communications, wide area video surveillance, and video and sensor integration. These technologies are included in Hitachi Visualization, an end-to-end solution comprising intelligent edge-capture devices and an integrated cloud and mobile software platform.
The APD and its selection team recommended the Rundberg and entertainment areas to be included in the initial phases of the HALO project. These recommendations and subsequent approvals were based on crime data and community input. Additionally, committees were formed to develop the city’s camera policy and an operations manual, collectively addressing guidelines, procedures, training, monitoring, privacy concerns and camera placement.
The HALO project and surveillance systems will be audited each quarter, based on:
- Disruption of crime patterns.
- Identification of criminals and criminal activity.
- Confirmed cases of video evidence used to assist in prosecution of crimes.
- Protection of First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.