Buffalo, N.Y. Fights Crime With Wireless Video Surveillance

"Any police department in the country considering video surveillance should ask themselves why not go wireless."

by / June 24, 2008

Photo: Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown came into office in 2006 pledging to reduce his city's crime rate. Today, two years later, city police are using a wireless video surveillance system that goes well beyond traditional security cameras. The rapidly deployable, real-time video surveillance solution from Firetide and Avrio Group helped police make their first five arrests while the installation was still in progress. The suspects were caught on camera burglarizing a convenience store just 10 hours after the police camera was installed nearby.

"The response to this program has been positive from day one as citizens have seen an immediate impact from it," said Brown. "We plan to expand the system with 40 additional cameras by the end of the year."

"Any police department in the country considering video surveillance should ask themselves why not go wireless," said Police Capt. Mark Makowski, Buffalo Police Department. "I'm convinced it is the way of the future. With a wireless network, we can put cameras where they are most needed, and it's a capability that most cities and police departments can afford."

Buffalo's new system allows the police department to be more proactive instead of responding reactively to 9-1-1 calls. Additionally, police officers are better prepared when approaching a situation because an officer operating the network camera provides details about exactly what is occurring at that particular scene.

Tough Requirements

In its initial request for bids, Buffalo requested:

  • The ability to read license plates from 200 yards away.
  • Evidence-grade, real-time video (high-resolution streaming video at 30 frames per second).
  • Wind- and weather-proofing, and good performance in low lighting.
  • Flexibility to add and move cameras in the future.

The current system consists of 56 Avrio Rapid Deployment Surveillance Solution PoleCams -- portable units that integrate Axis network cameras and Firetide wireless mesh nodes in a weatherized enclosure -- plus 37 additional Firetide nodes for infrastructure connectivity. All PoleCams have been installed in overt locations with blue lights and police branding. Some of the cameras are pan-tilt-zoom network cameras that operators can control remotely. The video is monitored by members of the police force who are temporarily unable to patrol the streets, such as injured or pregnant officers. Funding for the current deployment came from the state of New York's Efficiency Grants.


In the near future, two hospitals will gain access to footage from cameras that monitor the entrances and exits to their parking lots. Avrio's Rapid Deployment Surveillance Solution uses a video surveillance control and management solution from OnSSI allowing the hospitals to view video from their cameras only, while providing the Buffalo Police Department with access. Plans include adding video analytics and gunshot detection technologies to the system.

Like many cities, Buffalo contends with drug dealing, shootings, assaults and other felonies within its 42-square-mile boundaries. But the wireless video surveillance system isn't limited to high-crime areas. The city has also deployed cameras in its business district to stimulate economic development, as well as at critical infrastructure sites for Homeland Security purposes.

"Our wireless video surveillance system multiplies the eyes of the police officers," said Makowski. "You can only do so much undercover work before drug dealers figure out who you are. With the cameras, we can keep our eyes on them constantly."

RFP Process

Once Brown was elected, he asked the police commissioner to investigate video surveillance systems in other cities. The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications' intelligent security system provided a blueprint for a request for proposal (RFP). The RFP outlined requirements for the wireless video surveillance system without detailing technical specifications, allowing integrators to offer their best technologies. Out of the seven proposals received, the Buffalo Police Department selected the solution offered by Avrio, Johnson Controls and Ferguson Electric.