No More Camera Chaos for the U. of Illinois

This Midwestern institution has deployed a video surveillance management platform that enables campus police to centrally monitor the campus' 4,500 cameras.
Published: October 6, 2010

A few years ago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had scores of autonomous analog video surveillance systems installed throughout campus that police couldn’t view from a central location. Although images from some cameras could be remotely accessed at the workstations in the police department’s detective division, this arrangement  also proved to be unworkable.

“One detective had so many software programs running on his computer to manage all the different video systems that his computer wouldn’t run,” says Detective Tim Hetrick of the University of Illinois Police Department Technical Services division.

University of Illinois public safety officials were looking for a way to cost-effectively and efficiently provide real time, reliable security information to the police dispatch center, which meant somehow consolidating all of these disparate systems.

The solution was a gradual, three- to five-year deployment of roughly 4,500 cameras that would be managed from a central location using a single video management platform. 

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New Police Chief Goes in a New Direction

Enter Chief of Police Barbara O’Connor, who joined the University of Illinois Department of Public Safety as its executive director and head of police in 2009.

Previously, as the former chief of police and director of public safety at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (UMass), O’Connor worked with UMass administrators and community stakeholders to successfully deploy a centralized surveillance network that encompassed the school’s residence halls and other areas of campus.

Upon her arrival at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, it was clear that a similar approach was necessary. Working with the University of Illinois’ IT organization, known as the Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services (CITES), O’Connor decided to deploy the Milestone XProtect video management software suite to fulfill the need for her department officers to have actionable security video and information at their fingertips.

Additionally, a change of policy was required. Other campus departments could no longer install video surveillance solutions without the chief’s permission.

“If security is decentralized at a major university, then police cannot use that system to its maximum capacity,” O’Connor says. “We have developed a policy where anyone on campus purchasing a camera system must have it approved by the chief of police.”

Solving Case Leads to More Cameras Being Installed

Although there are some members of any campus community who support video surveillance so much that they would spec a system on their own, there are others who believe these systems aren’t appropriate. O’Connor says the efficacy of the Milestone system helped her to make the case to other campus administrators.

Prior to the recent installation, cameras using the Milestone system recorded a theft of a piece of Native American artwork located in an area close to the university’s fraternity houses and several local bars. Seeking assistance from the public in identifying the thief, university police were able to E-mail a video clip of the student suspect to about 70,000 people. Within hours, the perpetrator had returned the artwork.

“That was the success moment I needed to say we needed to deploy these cameras everywhere,” O’Connor said.

Police Department Recommends Equipment

Like many universities, making the decision to install a surveillance system is left to the individual department, whether it’s student housing, the college of engineering or a campus research laboratory. And while the department heads have the final word over the purchase, technical specialists led by Det. Hetrick from the university police, along with systems integrator Current Technologies Corp. of Downers Grove, Ill., provide assessments and equipment recommendations.

Campus officials determined that all of the institution’s video systems will be managed centrally through a single interface by Milestone’s XProtect Corporate, an IP-based video management software system. Because the software is capable of integrating with more than 80 different video surveillance vendors, individual departments can select head-end equipment that fits their needs and budget without worrying about integration issues with the Milestone software.

In all, about 10 departments have already completed their surveillance camera installations, including organizations like the Campus Rec Center. Campus Rec manages the two-year-old, $54 million activities and recreation center, one of the country’s largest on-campus indoor recreation facilities. 

Three other indoor recreational facilities and a host of outdoor sports fields, also part of Campus Rec, have been completed with the assistance of Hetrick and Current Technologies. Another 30 or so additional departments are in the process of deploying IP cameras and other head-end equipment.

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Strategy & Planning Series
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Strategy & Planning Series