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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 11, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 29
Security Uses New 'Smart Cameras'

The state-of-the-art surveillance system's smart cameras, which are monitored full time, are programmed to alert the operator to unusual activities.

Homewood system assists in 'virtual policing'

By Amy Cowles

Continuing its efforts to enhance the security of students, faculty and staff, the university has installed on the Homewood campus a state-of-the-art closed-circuit TV system that alerts operators when it spots suspicious activity.

Using computer-driven cameras, the "smart CCTV" system quickly recognizes potential problems, from a student who has fallen and needs assistance to someone trying to break into a locked building. Real-time images of people who may be causing problems appear on computer monitors, framed with a yellow rectangle to alert system operators. The operators then determine whether to dispatch a nearby security officer to the scene.

The system can be programmed to look for as many as 16 behavior patterns and to assign them a priority score for operator follow-up, depending on factors such as the time of day when the behavior occurs. In addition to its "smart" capability, the system is monitored like conventional security camera systems, with operators checking what is happening in each camera's field of view on a rotating basis. The feeds from each camera are recorded and, if needed for later analysis or for use as evidence, can be preserved.

Monitored around the clock, the new system acts as a "force multiplier," allowing the Security Department to cover more ground than it can with foot patrols alone, according to Ron Mullen, director of Homewood security.

"We can't put an officer on every corner," Mullen said, "but this system allows us to conduct virtual patrols. The cameras are helping us make the transition to a more fully integrated 'virtual policing' system that will take campus security light-years ahead of what many other colleges across the country are using."

The first cameras have been operational since late March. There are currently 24 in service, with a total of 32 anticipated to be up and running within a few weeks. There will be 16 cameras on each side of Charles Street, mounted on or near residence halls and other university-owned buildings. Areas covered on the west side of Charles Street, on the Homewood campus proper, include the freshman quadrangle, the Eisenhower Library and the Mattin Center. On the east side of the street, in the neighborhood adjacent to campus, the coverage area runs from 30th Street north to University Parkway.

The system was designed and is being operated by iXP Corp., a New Jersey-based public safety consulting firm whose client list includes the New York City Police and Fire departments and the University of Pennsylvania. For now, the system is set up and monitored inside the university's Office of Facilities Management at 3001 Remington Ave. An adjacent space will be renovated soon to create a permanent full-scale monitoring center.

The deaths of two students in the past year have focused the attention of the Homewood campus community as never before on issues of safety and security. In response, President William R. Brody in late January issued a 15-point security action plan, funded by an initial $2 million from the President's Office and the Homewood deans, and expanded a standing task force into a 26-member Committee on Homewood Safety and Security. Among other enhancements, additional guards, including off-duty police officers, have been hired; entrances to student residences will be made more secure; and lighting in the surrounding community has been enhanced.


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