A Better View for SMU

Southern Methodist University’s upgraded DVR system allows police to centrally monitor campus activities, deterring would-be criminals and providing peace of mind to students, staff and visitors.

During the past several years, Southern Methodist University (SMU) has gone through a significant transformation involving its IT infrastructure. Much like many other institutions of higher learning, its fiber-based network was recently expanded to help the school provide a wider range of services to its students.

But security couldn’t be left behind: SMU’s video surveillance system also needed to be upgraded. The catch, however, was that the CCTV vendor formerly used by the school had gone out of business. That meant SMU couldn’t obtain the software updates it needed to keep the system current.

Fortunately, Houston-based VideoInsight was ready and able to provide a digital video recording (DVR) system to help SMU better monitor its campus. And because the university’s network was so advanced, the improved server solution could be deployed with little trouble.

In all, 13 DVRs were installed throughout the campus to manage the cameras that were already there, as well as the 50 cameras that were added. Now SMU’s school of art, school of business and school of law, as well as the university’s parking garages, shopping center and bookstore, all have a standardized and centralized CCTV system that can be remotely monitored from the campus’ dispatch center.

New System Leads to Increased Arrests, Deters Crime

With the aid of the new system, campus police have caught numerous incidents of parking lot gate arm breakage, car burglaries and vandalism. Other areas on campus have seen improvements as well. “I put in three cameras in the bookstore,” says SMU officer Joey Perez. “The day after, we had an incident where someone stole some XBox 360s, and we caught the whole incident on video. We have since issued a warrant for that individual’s arrest.”

In addition to improved apprehensions of suspects, SMU officials believe the system also acts as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

Encrypted Video Transmission Prevents Hacking

Being that this solution was deployed over the campus network, security of the connection had to be guaranteed. In order to achieve this, the CCTV system was placed on a priority link. The video transmission was also encrypted to prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access.

Still, even if the network does get disrupted, the campus remains protected. “Each individual server is local to its set of cameras, so it would continue recording data just fine,” says Phillip Womack, VideoInsight’s training coordinator. “You would not be able to monitor those cameras from the central location. But if you have a network on the scale of SMU’s and it goes down, it’s going to be a priority fix anyways.”

System Is User-Friendly, Expandable

As with practically any CCTV installation that uses a campus’ IT infrastructure, Perez consulted with SMU’s IT department regarding bandwidth issues. He also had to request permission to network the servers through their system.

After this initial consultation, however, IT was not required to perform any upkeep. Instead, Perez was and still is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance. Because the VideoInsight system is so user-friendly, he can update it via the Web with relative ease. “It was manufactured for the person who doesn’t know too much about computers, so it was exactly what I needed,” he adds.

The only thing he would change about the system would be to increase the hard drives’ size so SMU can archive more footage. But fortunately for the university, the system is highly expandable as long as it has the bandwidth to handle the load.

Robin Hattersley Gray is executive editor of Campus Safety Magazine and can be reached at robin.gray@bobit.com.

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the November/December 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to https://www.secure-mag.com/CSM_Subscribe/.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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