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Video Management Helps New Orleans Catch Illegal Dumpers

Genetec’s security platform for monitoring video feeds and flagging specific things on camera, such as motion in particular parts of the image, helped New Orleans crack down on a long-standing criminal issue.

by / September 21, 2020

Video surveillance has been around since at least the 1920s, but as the cameras have gotten more advanced, their use cases have multiplied. And so have their numbers. The city of New Orleans now manages more than 600 video feeds in public spaces, and their use of a video management platform from Genetec over the past few years made it feasible to address a longstanding problem: illegal dumping.

As part of Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s “CleanUp NOLA” initiative launched in 2018, the Department of Sanitation paid for 20 motion cameras to be installed in the last two fiscal years at the city’s landfills. New Orleans City Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen told Government Technology many thousands of tires had been illegally deposited in her district.

“When I got into office, I already knew that that was an issue in my district,” she said. “Illegal dumping has been a chronic problem in the city of New Orleans.”

In this case, catching the culprits wasn’t just a problem of technology but of staff time. Even as they installed new cameras at landfills and other locations, no department could constantly monitor them all in person, or personally inspect every video feed every morning to see if someone had dropped off garbage the night before.

Genetec’s Head of Marketing Beverly Wilks explained that a combination of motion sensitivity and programmed alerts in the Genetec Security Center platform — which allows users to see video feeds, access controls, license plate readers and other features in one pane of glass — gave the city the operational efficiency to focus the cameras on what they were looking for.

“To help with the illegal dumping monitoring, the crime center’s IT department … set up a rule, which is a feature in Security Center, which is called event-to-action. This is a way for them to process motion detection in a defined zone in the camera’s view,” she said. “So the camera feed is pulled into Security Center, and then by using this event-to-action rule, we’re able to process the motion detection in the specific zone in the camera’s field of view, and then once that motion is then detected, the system bookmarks it and notifies the IT staff that there’s something they need to take a look at.”

George Barlow Brown, IT manager for the city’s Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), said the city has been using Genetec since the end of 2017, but once they got more than 10 cameras, they started using the platform to pick and choose which ones they wanted to check each morning.

“They were all in targeted locations where chronic illegal dumping takes place,” he said. “Every morning at 7 a.m., take a snapshot of the area that people illegally dump trash. That snapshot gets emailed to the sanitation department, as well as our staff. When our staff notices something is there that wasn’t there the day before, we use historical archive video to find any information we can: vehicle description, license plate, whatever the case is. We pass it through the information office of the New Orleans Police Department, who issues a summons.”

Brown said there have been cases where police issued a summons within two hours of the suspect being on scene. In one of the city’s more high-profile cases, reported by the Times-Picayune, police caught a man in November 2018 who had been renting U-Haul trucks to dump about 14,000 tires at three locations in the course of eight months.

Brown called it a victory for technology and proactive leadership.

“It’s really an efficiency and effectiveness approach to something we were doing manually,” he said.

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Andrew Westrope Staff Writer

Andrew Westrope is a staff writer for Government Technology. Before that, he was a reporter and editor at community newspapers for seven years. He has a Bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.

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