When the City of New Orleans underwent a $40 million citywide public safety improvement plan in 2017, a big part of the initiative was the deployment of a new public safety system and the construction of the Real Time Crime Center (RTCC). New Orleans replaced its outdated public safety camera system with a Genetec Security Center unified platform, which enables the RTCC to easily retrieve and manage evidence from hundreds of video and dozens of license plate cameras across the city. The platform is integrated with other public safety solutions, all of which help provide a comprehensive solution. All this information gets routed to a central command center, increasing first responder efficiency, which can speed up emergency response.

Across the city, there are now 525 public safety cameras on infrastructure in public spaces, and 600 or more private-sector cameras that feed back into the system through Genetec Federation, said Ross Bourgeois, director of the City of New Orleans Real Time Crime Center. This presence transcends all neighborhoods, every police and council district, and provides situational awareness when coupled with a computer-aided dispatch system that allows law enforcement to look at cameras where incidents are occurring in real time.

Building on the success of RTCC, the New Orleans Public Library network, a separate city entity consisting of the main library in downtown New Orleans and 11 satellite locations, wanted to replace its outdated security technology and leverage the ability to federate into the RTCC, said Barlow Brown, operations manager of the Louisiana office of Convergint, the integrator on the library project. “The library system was another city entity that knew they had internal security needs but wanted to share external camera feeds for the purpose of aiding the crime center’s public facing footprint,” he said.

The library’s existing security system was inadequate, primarily because each satellite location had its own separate technology. If a security incident occurred, an IT specialist from the central library had to travel to the branch to review video footage, Brown explained.

The library system was a “victim of outdated technology,” Bourgeois said. With each library location operating as an independent island, each with its own local storage, and a hodge-podge of different technology, there was a lack of cohesiveness.

“Libraries serve us as more than just a place to check out a book or access printed resources,” Bourgeois said. “We use them in New Orleans as distinct points in the community.” After a hurricane or other disaster, residents rely on their neighborhood libraries as a gathering place to access federal and state assistance, such as FEMA and SBA loans. It’s a place for people to meet with case workers on a claim, sign up for transitional housing, and more. And after a storm, when power and internet connectivity is limited at best, the library provides a safe haven for people to sit at a work station and reconnect with the world.

As an integral part of a neighborhood, libraries also wanted to be good citizens and put additional cameras at their perimeters to help the New Orleans Police Department by increasing situational presence in those neighborhoods, Bourgeois said. These additional cameras feed back to the RTCC and into the hands of first responders.

“Security is always too much — until it’s not enough,” he added. “Our system is incident based and focuses on increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our first responders, particularly our police officers and detectives.”

Realizing the value of this network, the library administration reached out to the RTCC team, expressing a need for a complete refresh of their security system. “While the library is a city agency, it doesn’t fall under the control of the administration; a board oversees it,” Bourgeois said. “They sought our advice because we built a nationally recognized real-time crime center and are resident experts in video.”

The RTCC connected the library administration and security director to Convergint as the integrator of record. “They were the best partner to effectuate what the library was looking to do, and they had an existing procurement mechanism through a state contract,” Bourgeois said. “The scope of that project being rather expansive, they were the best local partner to get that done in a timely manner.”

The key to the project was Genetec Federation, which enables access to public-facing feeds in the RTCC, providing additional eyes in areas where there may have never been cameras before, such as at the library sites.

“Cameras aren’t necessarily in place at a location because of crime,” Brown said. “They’re an extension of the network. If we hang a camera in a public space using library connectivity, that’s another camera at the disposal for the Real Time Crime Center. In this case, libraries are in a public space, and it’s just another way to increase the RTCC’s overall footprint.”

Convergint installed Genetec Streamvault turnkey security infrastructure appliances at each branch, along with Federation to feed video back to the library central branch. They installed Axis cameras in public-facing spaces, and Ubiquiti wireless devices to get connectivity back to the library. Convergint designed the library project to be a carbon copy of what the city had done for the RTCC with its relationship with Axis and Genetec, Brown said.

Fast, successful deployment within the NOLA library system created a template for other city entities and also fosters more opportunities for Convergint. “The successful completion of the library project gives us an opportunity to say we already solved this for one internal agency,” Brown said. Now, the New Orleans Recreation Department, which oversees all parks, playgrounds and recreation in the city, is undertaking a similar installation, issuing a purchase order for the first three parks and playgrounds, with more to come, Bourgeois said.

“Convergint’s values and beliefs are the core of our business model, and that core is what ultimately led us to the place we are today with the RTCC and libraries and beyond,” Brown said. “For several years, Convergint has been one of our trusted partners. We built this crime center in less than a year, from concept to operation. There was a bit of learning because we were building the plane as we were flying. …They’ve been a true partner to us, whether for advice or helping us procure certain things that have been difficult with supply chain issues. We’ve leveraged our long-term relationship with them to benefit our operation.”