December 26, 2006 By Sgt. Tom Labombarda
Traffic is a major concern in Aventura, Fla. To help alleviate this problem, which frustrates citizens and visitors alike, the city has recently installed a high-tech monitoring system.
The Traffic Video Monitoring System (TVMS) is a multiphase project to enhance the Aventura Police Department's ability to respond to traffic concerns. The impetus for the TVMS came from a similar project by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
Tom Ribel, chief of the Aventura Police Department, and other members of the command staff knew of the FDOT-operated Web site that uses video monitoring to display up-to-the minute traffic conditions on Interstate 95.
Ribel and Special Services Captain Steve Seefchak visited the FDOT command center to observe the equipment in action.
Aventura staff thought a similar but more sophisticated system would benefit the city, so a proposal was submitted to City Manager Eric Soroka, who agreed with the potential benefits and committed funds to the TVMS project. The planning of this system, designed in-house, lasted approximately two years, and the total cost of the project's first phase was just under $500,000.
With cameras installed at two of the most congested intersections in the city, the police department dispatch center can monitor traffic and dispatch officers at the first sign of trouble. The police department hopes to respond to situations as they arise, and clear accidents or traffic jams before they become a community concern.
The first intersection, at Northeast 186th St. and Biscayne Blvd. (U.S. Highway 1), is congested by a railroad crossing to the west -- which can significantly slow traffic.
The second, at the William Lehman Causeway and Biscayne Blvd., lies directly south of the Aventura Mall, and mall-goers create large amounts of traffic. From this camera position, dispatchers can see the entire length of highway that covers the mall's entry and exit points. The system's "hub" building, or collection point for all of the microwave video, is also in this location. From there, the data is transported to the headquarters building over a fiber network.
The system -- which includes two fixed Extreme video cameras and one pan, tilt and zoom (PTZ) Vicon camera at each intersection -- was designed and installed by the same vendors working on other FDOT projects. The vendors, Transcore Inc. and Systems Integration and Management, constructed two concrete poles measuring more than 80 feet to support the microwave network.
The FDOT contributed tremendous cooperation and assistance to the project, assisting the police department in selecting the equipment, designing operations parameters and with permitting on FDOT rights of way. Both entities also entered into a mutual aid agreement to share video images from their respective camera systems over a microwave connection.
The Aventura Police Department was fortunate to receive the support of the city manager, the City Commission and Police Command staff, without whom this project would have been unattainable.
These officials let the department make most project-related decisions, thus sparing it the cumbersome lengthy approval processes that plague most governmental entities. Because of this, the department enjoyed the ability to make high-level decisions, and completed the project at a record-breaking pace.
To stream the video back to the dispatch center's new state-of-the-art video wall, the police department installed an Orthogon OS-Spectra microwave backbone capable of transporting data at 155 Mbps, and a fiber network routed through Cisco routers to deliver video at a rate of 30 frames per second.
The decision to use a microwave backbone gives the department the flexibility to position cameras/poles in almost any area. Moreover, running
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