In May of 2016, Convergint Technologies acquired Total Recall, a security technology provider specializing in citywide safety solutions, including command and control centers, wireless connectivity, and video network design and management. Founded in 1985, Total Recall has been providing federal and municipal governments, businesses, and organizations with surveillance solutions for over 30 years. Total Recall has brought Convergint rich expertise in building sustainable, large-scale systems operating under the harshest urban conditions. Rebecca Law, an expert within this vertical, is a part of the Total Recall team of Convergint Technologies.
Tell us about your professional background.
I graduated from a rigorous engineering program at Georgia Tech with Magma Cum Laude honors in 2003. I was fortunate in that, through hard work, I had several options when I graduated, and I chose an exciting and challenging position with a great team of people in the physical security industry. Since then, I have grown businesses in both the systems integration and system manufacturer segments by helping clients increase the safety and security of their facilities. My experience includes system design, site surveys, estimation, sales, operations, and business management, with significant experience working with state and local government clients.
What is your role at Convergint?
My role at Convergint is to bring the exciting solutions that our Total Recall team has developed and successfully deployed to our seasoned teams across the country and globe, and to show police departments and cities how they can leverage this technology to create safer cities where business and citizens can thrive.
What are citywide safety solutions?
Citywide safety solutions are the people, processes, and technology that view and leverage live & recorded outdoor video images & analytics to make real-time decisions on actions and solve crimes. The technology includes three major components: video data collection at the street level, video transmission network, and video management software and servers.
How would you describe a typical citywide safety solution?
Most cities are set up in a reactive mode. This means that the systems’ value comes into play after an incident. Therefore, the most successful citywide safety solutions blanket key areas of a city with camera coverage. This is important because it allows the police department to follow an entire incident. They can then gather the data from the entire incident and extract the pertinent information. They can also understand the facts, who the potential witnesses are, where the suspects fled, what they looked like, and what they were wearing. The exception to this is if a city has tied license plate readers (LPRs) into their solution. They are very effective in real-time monitoring and alarming. They are utilized for Be on the Look Out (BOLOs) to stolen vehicles, missing persons, amber alerts, and post-event investigations.
What size of cities can benefit from citywide safety solutions?
Cities, towns, and municipalities of all sizes benefit from citywide safety solutions when the correct scalable solutions are implemented. We sometimes overlook how much small cities and large cities have in common. They both have hot spots, public events, and safety goals. They both have budgets, and neither one has unlimited funding. They both have crime, and crime rates are measured by the amount of crime per population. Both small and large cities typically install citywide safety solutions in phases. The beauty of our solutions is that they are completely scalable. They can start with one surveillance unit, five, 20, 50, or 1,000. Most leverage both our mobile single camera units and permanent or multi-camera units. They can start with the basic level software, professional, or enterprise levels, and the basic and professional editions are fully upgradeable. Our goal with all of our customers, both small and large, is to be their best solution and service provider.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges faced by cities as it relates to security?
The four biggest challenges that we usually see are:
- A well-designed and coordinated security master plan for the city. Many departments have all their planning done in silos.
- Obtaining funding for the projects in a timely manner.
- Selecting the right integration partner who has the technical expertise to design and build the solution and understand the long-term goals of the city.
- Procurement process. Many times, the city’s procurement process is not in sync with what the departments or city’s goals are. They are just interested in the lowest cost, without taking the time to understand system life, operation, and its impacts.
What role does cyber security play?
Cybersecurity absolutely plays a role in anything involving IoT devices and software. We recommend and propose brands of IP cameras that comply with industry-leading security protection. Recently there have been some lower-cost brands that we have seen integrators propose that do not meet those standards. We also encourage and highly recommend that our clients use strong passwords for their video surveillance software, client workstation, and mobile devices that meet or exceed their IT department policies. We have a team of cybersecurity experts that offer consultative services just for cybersecurity. Policies and procedures are just as important as the security features built into the IoT devices, communication devices, and software solutions that we provide.
What role do public-private partnerships play?
Police departments greatly benefit from the support and collaboration with the people and systems that the private sector has deployed. Public-private partnerships give police departments additional data and tools needed to solve more cases faster.
For example, just last week in my hometown, one of our local private businesses helped our police department solve a breaking and entering into a vehicle incident with video surveillance, which led to the solving of numerous other breaking and entering crimes committed by the same suspect that same week. That suspect who was committing serial crimes is now incarcerated. Without the public-private partnership, the suspect would most likely still be at large, taking from the local community.
Do Convergint’s contracting vehicles play in role in supporting citywide surveillance?
Yes, absolutely. Many of our citywide safety solution clients employ our already-competed and negotiated government contracting vehicles, which include numerous state contracts, National IPA, GSA Schedules 70 and 84, and NCPA. The contract vehicles enable cities and police departments to get fair negotiated prices, and usually better quality of work and solutions, while saving the time, money, and the risks associated with bid processes.
What makes Convergint the best choice for this vertical?
When you combine the service excellence of Convergint with the expertise of Total Recall and their CrimeEye solution, wireless experience, and knowledge from working in the complex municipality environment with numerous stakeholders, you get the strongest team that can and will deliver.
What do you think are the 5 most common security mistakes that cities make?
5 Common Security Mistakes Made By Cities
Cities of all sizes have unique security challenges. There are several organizational and technological tools that can help law enforcement maximize their efforts in securing their cities. Citywide surveillance is one such technology. By providing better situational awareness, video surveillance helps law enforcement officers enhance monitoring, verify situations, promptly identify threats, and improve response time. But what are some security pitfalls cities should avoid?
Here are the five most common citywide surveillance mistakes.
1. Bidding a Project Out & Selecting the Lowest Bidder
Putting a city surveillance project out to bid and selecting the lowest bidder, which may not be the most experienced and qualified company, often results in components and installations that are inferior in quality, reliability, and performance. Installing cameras and connecting them is not that difficult, but what it is difficult is knowing what will work and will not regarding infrastructure. Too many cities have implemented city surveillance systems that just don’t have the proper bandwidth and connectivity to provide quality and reliable video when police departments need it the most. There are several other methods that Convergint can employ for higher quality and reliability. The last thing any city wants is for an incident to have occurred, and there was no video feed working or there was poor quality video resolution.
2. Not Choosing a Platform Wisely
There are numerous video surveillance platforms out there, and most of them will all claim to do city surveillance well. Cities must do their homework on the software systems that they chose to verify that they have the capabilities needed for city surveillance. One important function to many cities is called “federation.” This allows a surveillance unit to record locally and at the real time crime center simultaneously, as well as allowing for advanced and permissions-based video sharing functions.
3. Not Budgeting for Maintenance
Many cities will obtain grant funding to purchase a system, but they don’t set aside or build a budget to maintain the system. Key maintenance items include cleaning of the exterior camera glass regularly – especially in dirty or dusty environments and in areas with significant foliage – regular software updates for fixes and new features, inspection of fans and PTZ components, and changing of filters.
4. Having Disparate Systems
Some cities select systems in silos. The jail may have one system, the courthouse another, city hall another, the school system another. With Convergint’s solutions, they could all collaborate and standardize on one platform, and the police department could pull up cameras from all of these systems without needing an expensive physical security information system (PSIM).
5. Not Investing in Video Synopsis Software
When working to solve cases, time matters. Time matters because the longer it takes, the lower the probability of solving a case. Video synopsis software takes hours of video search work down to just minutes.
Convergint Technologies has an entire citywide safety solutions team called Total Recall – dedicated to building, supporting, and maintaining custom solutions that integrate best-of-breed products, including its unique CrimeEye field units.
Can you describe the effect that citywide safety solutions have on crime rates?
Citywide Safety Solutions Deter Crime
Total Recall, a Convergint Technologies company, provides municipal governments, businesses, and organizations – both large and small – with citywide safety solutions. Citywide safety solutions are the people, processes, and technology that view and leverage live & recorded outdoor video images & analytics to make real-time decisions on actions and solve crimes.
Three Major Components of Citywide Surveillance
1. Video data collection at the street level – There is a saying in this industry: “garbage in, garbage out,” which means that a city must have quality, reliable cameras and peripheral equipment collecting video data if administrators want to be able to view quality video and properly analyze it. The components that Convergint provide at the street level are industry-leading IP cameras, uninterruptable power supplies (UPS), network switches & transmission electronics, and proper environmental, rugged enclosures that are designed specifically for citywide safety, to protect the electrical and mechanical components. Enclosures that do not have good air flow and dust protection will shorten the life span of the electronics that they are designed to protect.
2. Video transmission network – This can be wired or wireless, but it must be done properly by an experienced company. Cameras are easy to mount and connect, but knowing how to design a wireless network and which components go where is actually complex and takes a very experienced integrator of wireless solutions. There are great variations in capabilities across wireless products available in the marketplace today.
3. Video management software solution and servers – When quality video is successfully transmitted back to a real-time crime center or monitoring location, a leading video management system software platform with video synopsis capabilities will allow administrators to quickly and effectively search the video and obtain the data that you need. There are some video management systems that have components and features just for cities and police departments.
Benefits of Citywide Surveillance
The most direct benefit of citywide safety solutions is lower crime rates in the area where the cameras are installed. These cameras not only have the immediate effect of deterring crimes, but as cases begin to be solved and criminals realize they will likely be caught, they typically commit fewer crimes. When crime rates decrease, quality of life increases for citizens. Safer parks and recreation areas tend to attract more families to areas. Safe environments and quality education offerings attract more families. Low crime statistics and good quality of life attract top professional talent to local employers. Low crime rates enhance citizen confidence and productivity. Consumer spending and growing local businesses create economic development. All of which lead to cities growing and prospering.