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World-Class Security, Small-Town Feel

Located 30 minutes north of Boston, Massachusetts, the Town of Billerica strives to offer residents and visitors a safe, welcoming environment. To this end, the town’s surveillance system has been expanded to a variety of locations, including the town hall building, library, recreation areas, and apparatus bays of the fire department. 

The surveillance cameras were originally installed for two primary purposes: as a deterrent and as a reactive tool for the Billerica Police Department (BPD). For example, given that one of the recreation areas often transforms into a gathering spot for kids and families, visible cameras onsite give a simple reminder that BPD will not tolerate illegal activity on the grounds. With a skate park, basketball courts, and a playground, cameras provide a way to deter general problems such as drug activity and vandalism.

However, the town’s analog cameras became outdated. Recently, BPD decided to upgrade to an IP camera system for more effective and proactive security measures and clearer video. 

Because the local school department had Axis IP products installed, BPD paid the administrators a visit to learn more. “When we went to upgrade our system, they recommended the Axis products,” says Greg Katz, lieutenant and accreditation and technology manager with BPD.

BPD turned to Axis network cameras to integrate physical access control and sound analytics. The solution also gives officers an intelligent surveillance solution to keep the peace and improve responses as incidents happen.

At the park, AXIS P33 Network Camera Series have proven effective for the various recreational areas. The exterior models function in a variety of weather and temperature conditions. With the Axis Lightfinder technology deployed on the cameras, Katz says it is notably easier for officers to quickly address incidents and retrieve video. The tool provides clear, full-color footage at night when loitering and violations tend to occur.

Though BPD does not monitor the video feeds in real time, it uses surveillance reactively by responding to system-activated alerts or retrieving evidence for investigations. To process the footage, the town utilizes AXIS Camera Station video management software.

In the case of a man causing a disturbance at the skate park one night, officers were able to go back to the video, which caught the whole incident, and apprehend the suspect. “AXIS Camera Station has been working well for us,” Katz notes. “We use the mobile app as well. It’s all very functional for what we need.”

These installations were just the initial phase of deployments in Billerica, followed by a major project that outfitted the department’s building with a new, completely IP-based solution. AXIS P3365-V Network Cameras were placed in the department’s lobby and stairwells. Two AXIS Q3709-PVE cameras were mounted on each side of the building to grab a full 180-degree view at 4K resolution for detailed coverage over a wide area. AXIS Q8414-LVS cameras were included in and around the holding cells. 

Additionally, Katz and his team replaced an access control system with AXIS A1001 Network Door Controllers at both the BPD station and the town hall. Controlled through settings on AXIS Entry Manager, BPD has an updated door security solution that Katz says has been both reliable and easy to use.

As with other law enforcement agencies, BPD faces a great deal of liability for individuals held in custody. “We’re responsible for the well-being of those people,” Katz explains. “It’s our duty to supervise them and make sure they don’t hurt themselves.”

The department found opportunities to better keep watch over these individuals with physical access control and Axis Sound Intelligence’s Aggression Detector. 

The station has policies in place to have personnel monitor the individual in the holding cell every 15 minutes. To quickly provide a log of these wellness checks, Katz pulls a report from AXIS Entry Manager that shows each time the identification card was read in that cell block. While the log is helpful for state inspections, BPD is piloting sound analytics as a proactive tool to alert staff at the first signs of aggressive behavior.

Embedded on the AXIS Q8414-LVS camera mounted to the ceiling corner of each cellblock, Sound Intelligence’s Aggression Detection analytic detects hostile soundwaves, such as a person yelling. Once detected, an alert is then sent to AXIS Camera Station in the dispatch center, as well as the officer’s mobile phone. The notification indicates the cellblock number with the disturbance and an image from the camera feed for a visual identification of the situation. 

Katz adds that incorporating Sound Intelligence into the existing solutions is cost-effective. He says he plans next to install an AXIS C2005 Network Speaker in the station’s dispatch center. With this tool, when the analytic picks up aggression, it can trigger an audio alert, such as a message that says, “Disturbance in cellblock number two. Please check.”

BPD foresees opportunity with sound analytics to secure other parts of the town, especially schools and recreational areas. These areas are typically dark and quiet at night and prone to vandalism, graffiti, and illegal activity that often goes unnoticed until the damage is done.

“We definitely see possibilities in the near future,” Katz notes. “The good thing about sound analytics is that they alert you when something comes up, giving you the opportunity to respond while it’s happening.” 

BPD also intends to investigate how sound analytics can be augmented with motion-detection applications and the new radar technology from Axis. 

“Every police officer wants to catch criminals in the act, not take a report after the fact” Katz says. “We want officers to be proactive, know when something is going on, respond, and address the situation before any damage might happen.” 

​​Steve Stanberry, PSP, is business area director, northeast, for Axis Communications, Inc.