Meshing around in Richmond

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05/14/2008
I'm here in Berkeley, California, arrived yesterday actually, for an ADT media event. Today we spent most of the day in the city of Richmond (pictured above) which is not far away from this hip college town, but it's very different. An important shipbuilding port during WWII, Richmond is a diverse city with considerable challenges in terms of the crime and security. We spent the day checking out their new public security camera system and talking to the municipal people involved. Actually there are two security systems that can be connected in future. One is in the city and was installed primarily for crime reduction, vandalism and to curb illegal dumping of waste. The second is in the Port of Richmond and is part of its homeland security initiatives. The $4.5 million project include 116 fixed and PTZ cameras (Axis cameras using analytics by Object Video) built on a BelAir Networks mesh network. "One of the highest capacity mesh networks in the country," according to Craig Reed of ADT. Interesting, I thought, that this project all started at the local level. A group of Richmond citizens concerned about crime came to a City Council meeting and said they thought cameras should be installed in the city. They weren't looking for far-ranging high technology solution--just a deterrent to crime. Yet the outcome of those citizens' initiative is an impressive installation that has capabilities (presently and in the future) for a whole range of functions including a citywide emergency system. (Remember the tragedy in Minneapolis with the bridge collapse? The Minneapolis mesh network was key to emergency personnel, government workers,and others being able to communicate during that time. Richmond's mesh network comes from the same vendor--BelAir Networks.) The city and ADT have done an impressive job bringing all the relevant experts and concerned parties (the ACLU for example) into the process, and doing it early. Smart politics. Tomorrow we'll hear from Sir Chris Fox, (yes, he was knighted by Prince Charles) president of the Association of Chief Police Officers in the U.K. He's going to talk about issues surrounding surveillance cameras in public spaces. Fox helped coordinate national police operations in response to the terrorist bombings in London in 2005 and the deployment of 8,000 officers to Scotland for the G8 conference. We've got a great view of San Francisco from our post here in Berkeley, and tonight we're heading across the bridge to grab a bite in that fine city. On my favorites list, it's second only to Portland, Maine.