Case Study: Merced College Upgrades Video Surveillance System

This California school has engaged a full time police department on campus and deployed a new video surveillance system as strategic elements of its crime prevention policy and to ensure the general welfare of staff and students.

With 11,000 full-time students, 200 full-time staff, and 600 adjunct instructors, Merced College boasts two campuses – a 250 acre main campus and a 100 acre satellite campus in Los Baños, located 26 miles southwest of Merced. To help in the delivery of a professional and crime-free campus environment, Deputy Sheriff Jim Wilde of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office has been appointed to head up the Merced Community College Police Department, with three full-time officers, two parking enforcement officers, and nine part-time security officers.

“In light of the growing concern over campus safety, we have implemented a proactive crime prevention strategy that includes a surveillance system that can help us monitor activity across both campuses,” explains Wilde.

Merced College initially deployed an analog-based surveillance system with pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras, but according to Don Peterson, director of IT the school, “the analog-based system was inadequate to put it mildly. It was difficult to manage the proprietary hardware of our previous analog-based system and we found that the PTZ cameras often missed critical portions of an event and couldn’t produce the resolution and detail required for positive identification.”

After seeing a demonstration of the Avigilon HD Surveillance System, the college readily moved to the more advanced and powerful HD system.

“With its advanced feature-set and impressive image quality, the Avigilon HD Surveillance System easily resolved these issues,” says Peterson.

Analog Encoders Ease the Transition to Digital

Security officers at Merced College manage the system using Avigilon Control Center Network Video Management Software (NVMS) with HD stream management. The college installed four 16MP Avigilon HD cameras, six 11MP Avigilon HD cameras, and five 5MP Avigilon HD cameras to monitor activity across the campus grounds and parking lots.

To ease the transition from analog to digital and leverage its existing infrastructure, Merced College also installed 11 Avigilon analog video encoders to improve the performance of its analog cameras, which monitor the interior of several college buildings. Storing up to 30 days of continuous surveillance video onsite, security personnel monitor the system from control rooms located at both campuses while the food service manager monitors the cafeteria from his office.

“A key differentiator of the Avigilon HD Surveillance System is the fact that it enables users to zoom in to examine specific details of an event while it is still recording, a feature we initially thought was too good to be true,” explains Wilde, who contends that no other solution compares with Avigilon’s ability to record and zoom at the same time. “The Avigilon HD Surveillance System also delivers a major improvement in image clarity, resulting in much more useable footage and greater conflict resolution. Overall, image clarity is 1,000 times better than what we had before.”

In fact, the Merced Community College Police Department has been able to capture license plate details and facial attributes as a result of Avigilon’s powerful zooming capabilities.

Other key features of the system include its interface and management tools, which simplified training and facilitate ongoing system operations. “With our previous analog-based system, the vendor had to come out to our data center and work with us to sift through footage and export it for investigative purposes,” explains Peterson. “With Avigilon, we can manipulate the footage ourselves, giving us greater control over our investigations and dramatically expediting the entire process.”

Previous Proprietary Solution Had Maintenance Issues

For Arlis Botner, network manager at Merced College, the fact that the new video surveillance system does not require proprietary hardware was another great selling feature.

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