Collegedale beginning to cover area with cameras

Collegedale beginning to cover area with cameras

July 21st, 2011 by Jennifer Bardoner in Local Regional News

Collegedale is in talks with other area entities about creating a wireless mesh network for security and surveillance that could eventually connect to Chattanooga's.

"Other cities would love to have this but because they don't have a company that can provide fiber like EPB can, they're going to have to wait," said Collegedale Police Chief Brian Hickman, who's been trying for several years to get the system approved and funded at his local level. "Collegedale, Chattanooga and Hamilton County are way ahead of the game as far as the national picture."

He received the $75,000 needed for the initial outlay of the project, which will include three service nodes and "an undetermined amount" of cameras, upon the municipality's recent approval of this fiscal year's budget. Each node has a service radius of 3 miles and can support 300 megabytes.

"The cost for the future every year is basically going to be power and fiber lines," Hickman said, adding that he anticipates 24 lines to support the system.

The city has already invested $4,000 to $5,000 in feasibility and logistics studies up to this point. But Hickman noted that the software is included with the system being set up by Excalibur Integrated Systems. Software for the police department costs him around $30,000 a year.

"What this means for the police department is ... we'll be able to go back in time or look in real time live as events are occurring, see it in our patrol car and access any data we need," he said. "Basically our patrol cars will become a virtual office with very high-speed Internet, faster than what we have now. It's going to prepare us for the future and overall, eventually be a cost savings for us."

A recent incident on the Greenway called three officers away from the office "to look for somebody we had no idea where they went or what they looked like, and they were already long gone." It is hoped the surveillance cameras will preclude such incidents in the future.

"We're not trying to create 'Big Brother' here, we are trying to create a system of safety and security," said City Manager Ted Rogers.

That security system is expected to grow and will definitely include all the city's infrastructure and public places. Although exact locations of public cameras are not being given, Hickman named several private entities that may soon come on board.

"If we move forward SAU is going to move forward with us," he said. "If we've got the university on board, McKee is on board and we've got Walmart coming down ... three other private businesses, the Collegedale greater school system. I think the county is talking to [Excalibur] as well. We hope to include Hamilton County schools, apartment complexes both new and existing, as well as other commercial businesses in the city of Collegedale."

He plans to use the first city-sponsored cameras, which should be up and running in the next few months barring any complications, to demonstrate the value of the system to these and other entities to help sell and spread the idea. Those who hook onto the system will pay for their own nodes, thus extending the overall system's reach, as well as the electricity to power it.

"We're trying to show proof of concept to get people interested in it," Hickman said in regards to the initial rollout. "That's where having a consortium coming on board and helping us pay for it comes in, and we're looking for grants."

Independent users can opt to allow the police department to access their cameras or not. Audio capabilities are possible for inside cameras, but not exterior ones.