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Photos courtesy of Johnson Controls

Enhancing the View

Standing 63 stories high, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. Established in 1935 and originally called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Gateway Arch National Park is set between the Mississippi River and the Old Courthouse. Each day, hundreds of visitors flock to the iconic site to ride the tram 630 feet to the top of the arch for unbeatable views of the city.

Over a three-year period beginning in 2015, the park underwent a $400 million renovation that added 50,000 square feet to the visitor center and museum, upgraded the existing security infrastructure, increased accessibility, and added new landscape features.

The park is considered a “national icon” by the U.S. Department of Interior, which means it is a monument recognizable exclusively to the United States and is overseen by the National Park Service. The designation also means the park carries a higher security risk and requires dedicated physical security and anti-terrorism measures. Additionally, a high number of school trips and bus tours are conducted at the park, leading to an increased need to address visitor safety and vandalism threats.

To address these risks, the park needed a surveillance system that featured exceptional video quality while also offering ease of installation for camera placement and zoom capabilities—without impacting the visitor experience or traffic. The new system would also need to enable dispatchers to monitor the park, identify issues, and send appropriate personnel to handle situations.

The first step was to renovate the park’s underground visitor center. Tickets to ride to the top of the arch are sold here, allowing security to funnel visitors through one central area and a metal detector for security screenings. Backpacks, purses, and other baggage are scanned and searched, as needed.

The park also replaced its existing analog surveillance system with an IP-based camera system. Teams of dispatchers and federal officers, who are on duty 24/7, are able to easily review pertinent video footage from a mix of exterior and interior cameras to assess issues and take corrective actions.

“There were multiple facets to that project,” said Bob Wethington, regional sales manager for Multi-Tech Reps—a firm that helped write video recommendations for the project. “The upgrades were unique, based on the size of the renovation project itself.”

To help dispatchers immediately share camera feeds and streamline video management, the park installed the Tyco American Dynamics victor/VideoEdge Network Video Management System from Johnson Controls. This, coupled with the VideoEdge recorders, enabled dispatchers to conduct smart video searching and offered them enhanced investigative tools—vital to the park’s system.

While the primary driver for the system is the ability to monitor visitor behavior and ensure public safety, another benefit is the ability to help resolve visitor complaints. The park installed Illustra cameras that allow security staff to use face detection, one-touch focus, and zoom control.

Using pan-tilt-zoom capabilities, dispatchers are more easily able to discern security risks such as visitors transporting banned items onsite. Once identified, dispatchers deploy either a park ranger or a security guard to the scene.

Dispatchers also use playback to identify items left unattended—and who left the item on park grounds—helping eliminate false alarms and unnecessary evacuations. Additionally, camera features are used to assist the team in identifying children who have been separated from their families.

Security personnel for the park said the analytical analysis capabilities of the new system are very important to their work. The cameras’ ability to track suspicious activities and streamline video is beneficial to dispatchers and the security team. Video analytics featured in these IP cameras can save time and reduce expenses and workload.

The new video system has enabled park security to increase overall surveillance, which is critical during events like the annual Fourth of July celebration at the park, while allowing park staff to share a higher quality product with local, state, and other federal partners.

Jammy De Sousa is senior product manager, security products, at Johnson Controls.