Palm Beach is the easternmost town in Florida and is located on a 16-mile-long barrier island. Since the late 19th century, Palm Beach has developed a world-renowned reputation for its beauty, quality of life and small-town character.
The Palm Beach police department (PBPD) is always on the cutting-edge of technology when it comes to protecting the barrier island. With four bridges connecting the mainland, the PBPD had previously implemented automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) technology to track vehicles coming onto the island. After some time, the chosen technology was proving to be unreliable and produced numerous inaccurate reads, if any at all. In its search to replace ALPR cameras, the PBPD decided it was also time to add video surveillance cameras around the island to increase crime solvability.
The PBPD reached out to Johnson Controls, a security solutions provider, who proposed Genetec Security Center as the best option for the city’s needs. The unified security platform combines video surveillance, access control and ALPR systems under one solution. Since the town of Palm Beach was already using the AutoVu ALPR system within Security Center for parking enforcement and digital tire chalking, the police department was confident moving forward with Genetec.
SiteSecure, a leading security integrator which was recently acquired by Miller Electric Company, was contracted to handle the entire installation in light of its top-rated professionalism, knowledge and certification in Genetec solutions.
“A core feature the town was looking for was automated license plate readers for all vehicles that cross the bridge to the island,” said Andy Bowman, P.E., senior project manager, SiteSecure LLC. “We put it on the lanes of the bridges going both in and out of the city. Then they have a searchable database of cars that have come and gone. It is a crime-fighting tool for them. There are a bunch of different video management platforms out there, but very few have automated license place recognition incorporated with it. That made it an easy decision to use Genetec.”
Today, Omnicast, the IP video surveillance system of Security Center, is managing 150 IP video surveillance cameras from Panasonic. The cameras are installed at main intersections and at every entry point on the island. More video surveillance cameras have been installed alongside 16 AutoVu Sharp IP license plate recognition cameras on Palm Beach bridges to track incoming and outgoing vehicles.
“These cameras are used in 90 percent of all of our apprehensions and provide the evidence to solidify our prosecutions,” explained Curtis Krauel, captain at the Palm Beach Police Department. “Every vehicle coming onto our island is being recorded. If a crime has been committed, we either have a license plate number or video evidence associated to it. It’s like fishing with dynamite.”
AutoVu compares license plate reads to state-controlled criminal databases, such as the Florida Crime Information Center and National Crime Information Center, which alert dispatchers and officers to license plates that are associated with stolen vehicles, stolen license plates, wanted persons, amber alerts and more. The PBPD also creates its own database within AutoVu, when certain investigations require officers to track specific vehicles or persons of interests coming onto the island.
“One of the greatest advantages of Security Center is having both systems completely synced,” Krauel added. “We can view our data collectively instead of having to go into different applications to view everything at once. For instance, when we receive an ALPR hit, we are able to quickly access live footage from any camera in that vicinity. We can watch the vehicle come over the bridge and move through our town.”
While the 911 dispatchers are receiving and validating the ALPR hits, Security Center mobile allows law enforcement administrators and investigators to tap into the system at any point from their mobile phones and devices. The PBPD uses Security Center Mobile to monitor important hits and to facilitate undercover surveillance and active apprehensions.
The PBPD actively engages community members to garner both moral and financial support in its efforts, inviting the public into the police department during open house events to see the Security Center platform on display. According to Krauel, “During these sessions some citizens commented on how safe they felt, and many were in agreement to expand the system with more cameras. In theory, we can have a lead in almost 99 percent of the cases with this new system because we either catch them with an ALPR hit or video surveillance. There is simply no better investigative tool and its value is immeasurable.”
Both the community and the police department have seen tremendous benefits from its investment in Security Center and appreciate having the flexibility to expand the system over time.
“This is a high-end community,” Bowman said. “Business owners are all interested in adding into this system with their own private funds. They want the city to monitor their store surveillance, and we are working on facilitating that to those business owners. This involves a public/private partnership in order to make that happen. They see the merits of that system. Now they want to add those elements onto private property where the town hasn’t traditionally been able to go to provide even more crime-fighting coverage.”
Krauel added, “Security Center has definitely been a force multiplier for us. Having both video surveillance and automatic license plate recognition under one platform gives us the ability to not only identify crimes, but also provide the leads that support arrest and prosecution. We began this project in 2012 with the intent of preventing and reducing criminal activity, preserving the quality of life in our community and identifying suspects to aid in criminal investigations. Security Center has helped us accomplish this as we use it to proactively uphold the safety and integrity of our world-renowned destination, and we are proud of that.”