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Security cameras go high-tech to thwart crime, terrorism

Security is on everyone’s minds these days. High-tech security cameras are becoming more sophisticated to keep up with the demand from homes, businesses, banks, airports and government buildings. Smart new camera systems are being installed as a deterrent to crime and terrorism.

Those who install this equipment credit security cameras with the arrests that have been made in the recent London bombings. “Londoners are photographed 300 times a day. There are cameras hidden everywhere, some so small they can sit on a quarter,” says John Strachura, owner of AAA Gulf Coast Security in Gulfport. “There are 400 million closed circuit television cameras around the city although these signals are not broadcast.”

James Murphy of Advanced Video Systems of Jackson says the cameras are the primary reason London police were able to move so quickly. “The City of Jackson has put some cameras downtown, and we’re going to see more and more of that sort of thing,” he said.

New Orleans has recently started installing cameras around the city, and Strachura says other municipalities will follow suit. “Money from the federal government will be less because we’re smaller but we do have some high value targets — Keesler Air Force Base, NASA Space Center and the shipyards — that must be protected,” he said.

He says cameras can be hidden in all kinds of objects such as wireless clocks, radios, ladies’ handbags, neckties and pagers. The smallest camera Murphy has seen can fit inside a lipstick case.

“I’ve talked to some of my warehouses, and they say we’ll be going this way, too. It’s already started,” Strachura said.

Security is very important for airports, and Bruce Fralic says Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport where he’s the executive director uses a variety of video related techniques. “Like all airports, we have a lot of different things now and are constantly upgrading in every way,” he said. “It’s not just as a result of 9/11 but is an ongoing thing.”

Wide range of applications

Businesses that might not have used security cameras in the past are installing them now. Murphy services two daycare centers in the Jackson area. One uses 24 cameras and the other uses 32. “These cameras can integrate with Web sites,” he said. “When parents log on and put in a PIN number, they can see their children in the rooms and on the playground. The daycares like parents knowing they can see their children and the systems act as security cameras, too. People will think before they bust up in there.”

He’s also put security systems in fast tax and check-cashing places and tobacco stores recently.

Strachura, who’s worked in electronics since 1975, recently installed a system in an automobile body shop in Long Beach that allows the business owner to monitor the shop from his home computer. “If the alarm goes off at 3 a.m., he can log in from home and see what went wrong,” he said. “I also installed a system like this for a homeowner who travels back and forth from the Coast to California. He can access the system on the Internet and monitor the activity.”

One local business almost went down until a security system caught wrongdoing by the son of an employee and employees. “We did the work at night and installed cameras in the smoke detectors,” he said. “The owner found the office manager’s son coming in at night and stealing, but also found other things going on that he was able to stop and his business has rebounded.”

Within the next 60 days Strachura will install another new high-tech system in a Gulfport business. “The owner has some very sensitive areas and asked how secure we can make it,” he said. “We’re putting in a smoke cannon system that instantly fills the room with a fog-like smoke in 15 seconds. Whoever is in the room can’t see anything and is quickly disabled. The size of the smoke cannon is calculated to the size of the room.”

The security firm owner met the inventor of the smoke cannon system at a security show in New York. He was impressed with the story the inventor told about testing the system in a warehouse. When the installers returned to the warehouse from a meal break, they found police and firemen there. It seems intruders broke into the warehouse and were disabled by the smoke cannons. Neighbors called the fire department.

Efficient and reliable

Strachura and Murphy say the new camera systems are efficient and reliable. These are digital video recorders that, unlike the old style videotapes, do not have to be rewound. “For years security used time lapse VCRs and they couldn’t be seen remotely,” Murphy said. “A lot more businesses and some homes are switching to the new equipment that writes over all data so there’s no rewinding and it can be accessed over the Internet.”

Strachura says this type system makes it easier to solve break-ins. Police can put pictures from the cameras immediately on computer printers. “It saves time and the pictures can be e-mailed to all the police departments in the area,” he said. “The high-speed Internet has pushed security systems along so that law enforcement can zero in with instant identifications.”

The systems are getting better all the time because the people who develop software and those who do video are getting together. “That’s where the anti-terrorism work is going on,” he said. “One piece of information by itself might not be much but putting it together is a big help.”

Murphy says he deals strictly with the digital side of security. After 28 years of doing computer programming and Web sites, it was a natural. He loves to solve security problems.

He’s getting ready to install a SkyTel product in a car that will allow parents to track where their children take the car. “The parents can set limits for their kids to go if they’re using the car,” he said. “They can track it on the computer and send text messages on a cell phone if the kids go outside the defined area.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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