Recently, 2MCCTV has the opportunity to speak with Jesper “JJ” Jurcenoks, Founder of Neighborhood Guard, a not-for profit organization helping take neighborhood watch groups to the next level of security. Neighborhood Guard is currently working with dozens of neighborhood groups to help strengthen crime prevention and make public streets safer.
2MCCTV: What is it that Neighborhood Guard does exactly and how is that different from Neighborhood Watch?
Jesper: Neighborhood Guard is a grass root extension to the existing Neighborhood Watch programs, as the name implies we try to do more than just “watch”, but more about that later.
Neighborhood Watch is an entry level of organization, exchange of roster information, setting up of e-mail list. Neighborhood Guard takes this existing infrastructure and helps the groups establish an independent neighborhood organization with bylaws, boards and bank account. Once such an organization is in place it becomes capable of collecting money and spend them on crime prevention activities. The Activity that we are currently having the most interest in is Neighborhood wide camera solutions for surveillance of public streets. While each neighborhood group owns and manages their own camera, Neighborhood Guard advises on setup and installation, choice of camera and software and offers critical information exchange. Neighborhood guard is a Not-for-profit organization that does not have any paid employees.
2MCCTV: How many neighborhoods have you consulted with?
Jesper: Our current list of neighborhoods who are interested in joining, in the process of joining or have already joined is more than 120 neighborhoods. Size of the neighborhoods is from 10 households to 2000 households. The 120 Neighborhoods currently represent about 15,000 people.
2MCCTV: Tell us about your first experience with video cameras.
Jesper: I started working with digital video cameras hooked up to computers more than 15 years ago in 1996. We were investigating a system where the public could see over the internet in real-time how well farm animals were treated on rural farms. At the time the technology and internet bandwidth was not quite ready.
2MCCTV: What is the typical setup for an average sized neighborhood as far as the equipment is concerned?
Jesper: The typical neighborhood is a middle class neighborhood with single family houses. They are typically organized in a neighborhood watch group of 40-100 households. They have 2 entrances/exits to their neighborhood, one in each end of their street.
The setup involves placing cameras at each of the entrances. Each camera location needs to have single plug PoE power supply, camera, SD-card, mounting hardware, infrared light, wiring, polarized lens, camouflage, a high speed internet connection and a few other smaller items. There is NO need for a DVR in our setup, as the images are uploaded directly to the internet.
2MCCTV: How much technical experience is required from the local resident who hosts the camera?
Jesper: None at all. The system is designed to run without ANY supervision or maintenance by the household that is hosting the camera. The most technical person in the neighborhood will be trained by Neighborhood Guard to handle any issues, but it is important to realize that such a technical person typically does NOT live in the house with the optimal corner location and that this is perfectly alright. We typically train a group of 2-3 people in each neighborhood to do the actual installation and keep an eye on the cameras. Continuous maintenance is limited to removing spider webs from the lenses and keeping foliage from growing in front of the camera. For the installation itself, anybody who can attach a blue-ray player to a TV, or plug in a computer can do this. We specifically designed a solution where no reconfiguration of home owners firewall would be needed.
2MCCTV: You mention Axis quite a bit on your site, why Axis?
When we started this project we started at the lowest price points in the market and worked our way up. Analog systems like Lorex were quickly tested and dismissed as not being adequate for our needs. In order to keep our goal of no PC/DVR or firewall configuration changes, we had very limited range of cameras to choose from. Traditional high-end providers like Panasonic and Sony could not offer the functionality we needed. First we looked at ACTi
, a relative newcomer claiming high levels of features for a nice price, they positioned themselves in the space between professional and consumer products. Our testing showed clearly that writing a feature on the datasheet and having it actually work in real-life are two different things. My advise to everyone, make sure you complete your testing within the return period! My friends at the world leading IP video software company Milestone systems
said it bluntly: “Axis just works”
. I had worked with Axis products
since 1989 when we used them to hook up printers to mainframes. I remember when they launched the worlds first Network Camera, so I know they had a long track record of quality products. Being a cautions person I made sure I got a long return period (hint: buy in beginning of December and most company will let you return in the middle of January)
. There was no need to return the Axis 1347-E. With the camera being from Sweden you can see the similarity to a Volvo, the vandal proof housing was 3 times bigger on the Axis than on the ACTi camera and was built like a tank.
2MCCTV: Tell us about some success stories you’ve had that you’d be willing to share.
Jesper: The quality of the suspicious person reports that we submit to the police has improved tremendously where before they were vague and fuzzy. Now they are accompanied with a crystal clear high-resolution picture. We have a few burglaries that are still under investigation. The photos of suspects have turned out to be a critical component for the police.
Our biggest success story was a hit and run that showed all aspects of the system working. A neighborhood visitor hit a parked car, came out and apologized then took off under the excuse of getting insurance papers from the car. We had witnesses and a general car description but no license plate or car make and model. I was away on vacation at the time. Because our images are stored on the cloud I was quickly able to pull up a hi-resolution image of the offending car and we were able to present car make and model, complete license plate, timestamp and everything else to the police officer who took the report. Police called me later to let us know that they had been able to track the offender and that the driver of the car broke down and confessed on the spot when confronted by the evidence.
2MCCTV: What is the typical cost for an average sized neighborhood?
Jesper: Cameras, cables, power supplies, signs etc for 2 entrances totals about $5000.
2MCCTV: Who is the one choosing the positioning of the cameras? How does that work?
Jesper: The position of the camera is a combination of available households willing to host the camera and local natural chokepoints; street lights etc. Neighborhood Guard makes its expertise available to the local neighborhood groups and helps in finding the optimal location for the camera. In general, be prepared to move your camera to get the optimal angle. By installing yourselves you are not under the same economic pressure as a contractor who has committed to a fixed price. This allows you to move the camera until you hit that perfect spot, as opposed to a professional installer who will tell you that this is as good as it gets.
2MCCTV: If there is a crime, how much time do you need recorded on the video in order to go back and view it?
Jesper: We typically keep 60 days of recording in our system. We ask our neighbors to give us as small a time-window as possible for the crime. Alarm systems are instrumental in giving an accurate timeline. We typically only submit the best image to the police to not overwhelm them.
2MCCTV: What additional services does/will Neighborhood Watch offer?
Jesper: We are currently working on automatic licence plate recognition, with comparison against local list of trusted license plates, exchange with other neighborhoods and real-time reporting to the police of recording of vehicles with stolen plates.
We need more initiatives like Neighborhood Watch & Neighborhood Guard. We as a citizen have a responsibility towards the society and the government. The changes will begin at the grass root level and the $5000 is really nothing as compared to the long term benefits!