SW24, not-for-profit team up on video surveillance
NEW YORK—SecureWatch24, a full-service security company here, has been awarded a $1 million contract with a private sector not-for-profit organization to install 80 camera boxes in two Brooklyn neighborhoods—one of which was the setting of a high-profile crime in 2011.
The video from all 80 cameras will be streamed to the NYPD’s Real Time Crime Center as part of SW24’s public-private partnership, the Citywide Safety Initiative.
Desmond Smyth, president of SW24, and a former NYPD officer himself, believes this type of collaboration is a preview to how municipalities will do video surveillance in the future. The deal, forged with the not-for-profit Agudath Israel of America, and made possible through New York state grant funds, is structured to make the most efficient use of public resources and to maximize the NYPD’s technical familiarity with the program, Smyth said.
“It’s almost a mantra with me: You cannot deliver cutting-edge technology to companies or municipalities and then walk away,” he said. “It’s like handing someone a rocket ship and saying ‘good luck.’”
SW24 has contracted with the not-for-profit for a three-year period, during which time it will manage the program, which involves the strategic placement of surveillance cameras throughout the neighborhoods of Midwood and Borough Park. The latter neighborhood was where Leiby Kletzky, an eight-year old boy, was abducted while walking home on July 11, 2011. Days later, authorities discovered the child had been murdered.
“The perpetrator was a mentally ill individual who panicked [after carrying out the abduction] and murdered the child,” Smyth said. “We thought that if we had gotten video right away, authorities would have recognized him and possibly prevented this.”
New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents the district that covers the two neighborhoods, knew SW24 had some experience and proficiency operating large camera networks and approached the company about “building and designing a camera program that can blanket our neighborhood at strategic points with cameras,” Smyth said. He added that Hikind specifically wanted a network that established a deterrence factor and reduced response times.
“We got our engineers together, took some concepts and technology we had shelved until a later date, and said, ‘Let’s make this happen,’” Smyth said. “Within days we had most of the foundation ready for what we wanted.”
Though SW24 is responsible for oversight of the camera system, the company’s access to the cameras will be confined to a “limited basis and for maintenance only,” Smyth said, adding that SW24’s central station will “coordinate, maintain and manage the network” for the duration of the three-year period.
The NYPD, on the other hand, will have a greater degree of access to the cameras, but can still only view footage in the event of a crime in progress, suspected criminal activity or an emergency. The project “breaks the mold,” according to Smyth, through its use of independent cameras instead of city cameras to conduct municipal surveillance. Using private cameras is not only less expensive; it also allows for greater network flexibility, Smyth said.
He says the public-private partnership can be a model in the future for municipalities on tight budgets.
“We know these are powerful deterrents, but we also know there are manpower and budgetary restraints,” Smyth said. “If there’s any way to create additional components to help these public safety projects, let’s do it.”