Unified Security Approach Helps Florida City Improve Citizen Safety

Lakeland, Fla., has managed to update and integrate its disparate surveillance and access control systems while avoiding significant upgrade costs.

by / August 11, 2015
City of Lakeland

Citizen safety is a big deal in Lakeland, Fla. The city, which is home to just over 100,000 residents and located between Tampa and Orlando, has used a number of different surveillance and access control efforts in its waste and water facilities, police and fire departments, city hall, libraries, park and recreation buildings, public works facilities and the regional airport.

But little of the technology matched, such as a mix of cameras and various analog and DVR systems, making it difficult for city managers and authorities to get a unified picture of what was going on within the city.

“We had different departments implementing different types of applications and different types of cameras,” said Alan Lee, security and safety systems supervisor for the city's public works facilities.  “At the same time, our population was growing. We decided rather than continue on this path, we needed to integrate both cameras and card access software into one platform that could work together. We wanted a more robust and reliable IP-based security system.”

City administrators realized they needed a system that was user friendly, adaptable to changing circumstances and compatible with the existing network.

After much deliberation, Lakeland chose Genetec Security Center, which unifies IP-based video surveillance, access control and license automatic plate recognition into one central monitoring and management platform. SiteSecure, a security integrator, handled installation and maintenance.

“Ultimately we determined that Security Center would be the best fit because of all the various applications we needed throughout the city,” said Lee. “We felt it was a system that could help us improve security, building safety and community efficiency.”

An additional benefit of Security Center was its open architecture, which allowed the city to choose its preferred brands and models of hardware, while also using existing investments.

“We were able to preserve existing analog cameras and also the cable, power and card technologies from previously installed access control systems at various sites,” Lee said. “This was a huge selling point for senior management, since we were able to capitalize on existing investments and save around $300 per door and $200 per camera.”

As of press time, Security Center is currently installed at 58 sites throughout Lakeland. Omnicast and Synergis, the video surveillance and access control systems within Security Center, are managing a total of 653 cameras and over 554 doors, respectively.

Lee said all cameras and access control devices are now located within the same platform, but the city has implemented granular partitioning so that each department has exclusive control of the video and access control for their own buildings. Designated “partition leaders” at each department are responsible for issuing badges, changing rules or accessing video, where applicable.

In total, more than 200 users now have access to the system with specific privileges set according to their various functions, and more than 5,000 cardholders can freely move through city buildings, when and where permitted.

With full administrative control over all local systems, the IT department can also offer convenient and centralized support.

“We have become a one-stop-shop for servicing all of our city departments, which saves everyone considerable time,” explained Lee. “There’s no more need to jump through hoops. One call to our department and we can we update door schedules, tweak access control rights, and immediately activate or deactivate cardholders. This helps to keep our buildings operationally efficient and secure.”

The system is used not only to control access at critical facilities, but also to modify such control on the fly. For example, if an employee is terminated, the system can be updated within minutes to ensure he or she can no longer access critical city infrastructure.
 
Other buildings are utilizing a visitor management system that provides critical access control, and also gives front desk personnel a heads-up about an expected visitor, as well as details about who the visitor is and who they are there to see.

“This allows our personnel to offer improved customer service, which has been an unexpected benefit of the system,” said Lee. “Of course nothing is bullet proof, but the system is helping us speed up our processes tremendously.”

While the new platform has contributed to keeping city buildings secure, Lee said neighborhoods have also benefited from Security Center. For example, to accommodate community events or city hall meetings, system administrators can implement temporary door schedules to provide citizens with free-flowing access to buildings after-hours.

Lee said that, despite the broad use of Security Center within the city, they are still only scratching the surface of what it can do. And because they expect more population growth and more federal and state mandates around compliance standards on electric utilities and other areas, the flexibility of the system is critical. Already, the city is upgrading all of the Lakeland Electric systems and is considering unifying perimeter protection with Security Center. The city is also making the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport a priority, bringing more doors and cameras online. Finally, the city is looking into AutoVu license plate recognition for both law enforcement and parking applications.

“I believe this solution can grow with us,” Lee said. “As more mandates and compliance standards come down from state and federal government, we can continue to customize the system to meet our needs.”

Lee’s advice to other cities looking into upgrading their security systems is to get a committee together to look at the entire organization rather than trying to tackle it separately.

“Communication at the beginning and buy-in from all the departments are greatly needed for this to be successful,” he said.

Justine Brown Contributing Writer