St. Louis city and police officials have installed a new wireless video surveillance system in the 21st Ward, and have set a goal to reduce crime by 70 percent. Of the 28 wards in the city, the 21st Ward is the first to deploy this type of solution.

The system has been added to reduce violent crime and drug activity. In 2010, there were 14 homicides in the ward. City leaders are elected from the wards, while the St. Louis Metro Police Department divides the jurisdiction into nine policing districts.

The surveillance system, which was installed with the help of ADT Commercial, operates on a wireless mesh network designed with Firetide. The 21st Ward plans to deploy 14 Panasonic IP pan/tilt/zoom (p/t/z) cameras throughout the area in phases. Police officers will view video feeds using an OnSSI platform featuring video analytics at the ward's newly created police substation, which features a multiscreen workstation. The workstation includes a graphical map application that visually signals when there is significant activity in a certain area.

"Currently we have six cameras up on one of our main streets," Alderman Antonio French tells Security Sales & Integration, a sister publication of POLICE. "Three more will go up by the end of this week at another one of our hot spots. Then we'll add four in our major park, and we'll just continue to expand this thing."

Shortly after his election, French approached City Hall officials in December 2009 to begin the program; however, it took 18 months to get off the ground. Prior to the cameras, the subdivision relied on "old school policing" to handle crimes, French says. Unfortunately, when crimes occurred, many witnesses followed the "no snitching" rule, which oftentimes made it impossible for police to close some of the cases.

"Of the 14 murders we had last year, at least a dozen of them are still unsolved because no one comes forward," French says. "One of the cases involved a woman - a mother of four - who was used as a human shield in broad daylight. There were so many people out there, but nobody came forward."

ADT was one of the highest bids for the project. However, because of the company's customer service history, the 21st Ward signed a contract with ADT that includes a three-year maintenance agreement.

The system has already paid off for the 21st Ward. Roughly 72 hours after the first phase's completion, police used the cameras to solve an abduction case that occurred outside of a local store.

Funded by the 21st Ward's One-half Cent Ward Capital Improvement Program, the $400,000 system has helped the subdivision stay on track to reduce crime. In fact, the ward has already seen an 80-percent drop in homicides this year, French says.

By Ashley Willis