Rainbow over Dover
DOVER, UK--Ports have always been notoriously difficult to police and Dover is no exception. Besides inspiring musical tribute, the white cliffs have long served as landmarks for smugglers making the return trip from the European mainland - a mere 22 miles away. Now, visitors are more scrutinized than ever thanks to a new video surveillance upgrade.
Today, Dover is one of Europe's busiest ports. A report commissioned recently by the town's harbor board says Dover ferry services carried 13.8 million passengers, 2.7 million tourist vehicles, and 2.3 million goods vehicles in 2006. Another 1.3 million trucks and more than 2 million passenger vehicles were transported on Eurotunnel shuttles the same year.
Ensuring port security is the job of the Kent police who make no bones on their web site as to the threats to be combated: terrorism, drug trafficking, people and goods smuggling, and firearms.
In May, high-resolution bullet cameras from Rainbow CCTV, a U.S.-based company specializing in integrated CCTV equipment, were installed within ticket machines and operator booths at the Eurotunnel plaza in Folkestone. Five miles from the actual port, the plaza is the point at which motorists and their vehicles are boarded on special trains for the channel crossing. The cameras will allow the Kent police to observe freight and car traffic at the plaza, which connects with the M20 motorway. The cameras will allow for both security monitoring and license plate recognition.
The selling point for the Rainbow cameras, according to Rainbow sales and marketing director for the U.K. and Europe Rico Martinez, was their compact size. Measuring 0.83 X 3.2 inches and weighing just 1.8 oz, they don't intrude into the booth operator's working space and run no danger of being clipped by the wing mirror or trailer of a passing vehicle.
It also helped that Rainbow lenses are already in use at the port of Dover. Martinez says his company is actually better known for lenses than cameras, and Rainbow's varifocal lenses are used for plate recognition at embarkation points within the port itself.
Images from the cameras are recorded by DVRs from Virage, providing an element of scene analysis as well as plate recognition.
Virage worked with Tyco Fire and Integrated Systems (creator of the application for the Dover security system) to develop the necessary protocols to meet the requirements of the Kent Police in terms of searching and storage.
The Virage DVRs allow police to check license plates against records in real time at a police monitoring center within the terminal. David Humphrey, managing director of Virage, said that multiple cameras are used to film vehicles from a number of angles, including a side view from another traffic lane that allows the viewer to see the vehicle and the driver. The system "monitors constantly," he said, and when something suspicious is noted, "a warning comes up on the screen." (The system also offers alerts via pagers and audible alarms, according to Tyco).
What the system considers "suspicious" depends on the end user, according to Humphrey, as anti-terrorism teams look for different warning signs than do anti-drug teams. If any vehicle turns out to be of specific interest, police can consult the image in a video archive where it is stored for 31 days.