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Protecting Puerto Rico's Public Schools with Milestone

Cuarto de controlPuerto Rico protects more than 850 public schools with the help of Milestone Systems management software.

by Milestone Systems

The challenge: The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico needed to implement a centralized and efficient perimeter security system for all public schools on the island. Intrusions and assaults on educational institutions increased, and Hurricane Maria further exacerbated problems with the destruction of infrastructure.

The solution: The need to restore hurricane damage also provided opportunities to invest in modern improvements. It was chosen to install a video surveillance system with more than 10,000 cameras, speakers and other security devices in 856 schools. In the same way, a centralized control center was established, which uses the Corporate version of Milestone Systems' XProtect® video management software (VMS).

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The advantages
• Endowed with the same annual budget that allowed to monitor 250 institutions, the new system allowed the Department of Education of Puerto Rico to cover all its public schools (856).

• Since the system is in operation, there has been a 97% reduction in intrusions within educational institutions.

• In addition to protecting the educational program, the audiovisual material captured by the system helps other government agencies to evaluate and manage areas of public use and investigate incidents.

Ensuring a safe environment is a growing challenge for today's colleges and schools: theft, fights and bullying are some of the problems that not only affect students, but also teachers, employees and, ultimately, the entities that subsidize them.

In Puerto Rico, for example, the Department of Education was concerned about the increase in unauthorized intrusions, robberies and assaults within its schools; index that skyrocketed after Hurricane Maria (2017) and that destroyed much of the island's infrastructure.

Even before this natural phenomenon, there was no centralized security system that integrated an overview of all schools. Disparate installations of video surveillance equipment (cameras, alarms, lighting) existed but only in about 250 of the schools. After the hurricane, instead of investing in the repair and purchase of all separate systems, the top priority was given to deliver perimeter security for all schools that would provide a centralized and effective command center.

"The hurricane damaged the communication and lighting systems of the island, a circumstance that promoted intrusions into schools, and later the increase in vandalism; we had no visibility of what was happening and we could not find a way to avoid these escalations," said César González Cordero, Commissioner of Security of the Department of Education of Puerto Rico. "However, we could not afford to buy and repair equipment individually for all schools, so a centralized and coordinated effort was necessary."

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In this context, Gonzalez says, the proposal was born to carry out a process of acquisition of a video surveillance system for public schools in Puerto Rico, focused on perimeter security.

Check the potential of the Milestone Systems VMS

Perimeter security for all schools
Genesis Security Services, Inc. of Puerto Rico was selected to develop the perimeter security project for the island's 856 public schools. They are a Puerto Rican corporation founded in 1997 by brothers Roberto and Emilio Morales of Yabucoa, who are leaders in security services at the government level.

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"We have been providing security to the Department of Education for more than 15 years through our on-call guard service; that's why we knew the design, location, assets and vulnerabilities of several schools, which represented a great advantage when executing the project," said Yasel Morales, Director of Technology at Genesis.

In October 2018, the installation of cameras and other devices began in all schools. The mission control of the video system was built inside the Genesis Central Station, located in the municipality of Carolina (in the northeast region of the island). Video data from all schools is returned to Central Station, where it is managed with Milestone Systems XProtect Corporate's open VMS platform.

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Harnessing the power of the open platform, Milestone XProtect video management software supports more than 8,500 security and surveillance devices, and more than 450 software integrations from more than 3,500 technology partners. Alliance partners include providers of network video cameras, cloud solutions, DVRs and NVRs, servers and storage equipment, alarm and detection systems, video analytics, GPS technology, laser and radar scanners, emergency call boxes and more.

"At the Central Station we have fifteen workstations, with the same number of operators per shift; there we have a videowall of ten monitors distributed among the stations. We also have two dispatch centers that serve as backups: one in the municipality of Yauco and another in the municipality of San Juan," Morales explained.

As part of the project, approximately 10,000 4-megapixel Uniview DH-Vision cameras were installed in all 856 schools (an average of 12 cameras per campus). Audio speakers from Axis Communications and a range of Sensors from Optex were also integrated. The combination of these technologies made it possible for each school to have an anti-intrusion system with its own alerts, all fed back to the Central Station.

Each campus has a Seneca server with the XProtect Express+ software installed, which communicates with the Corporate version of the Central Station through Interconect, a licensing platform that allows opening a communication channel between different equipment that in its native form cannot communicate with each other.

Milestone Interconnect ™ connects remote sites for a low-cost video surveillance solution. It's the ideal surveillance for a wide variety of industries that want an inexpensive way to get centralized oversight of multiple locations spread across a region.

With Milestone Interconnect, engineers and managers can easily monitor critical and remote areas from a central location. This means faster intrusion handling because operators in the central system can access video and receive alarms from connected remote sites. This reduces the need for local security personnel, maintenance, operation, and other costs, including on-site visits.

Genesis created virtual gates with cameras that, in addition to protecting school spaces, also ensure the safety of substations and solar panels, considered important assets for institutions. If someone crosses the virtual gate, an alert is generated at the local level, which passes to the Central Station with Interconect, where the operators make a visual confirmation and, if necessary, the emergency protocol is activated.

"The emergency protocol is to communicate with the Security Commissioner and the Department of Operations. For that link we appoint an inspector internally; once informed, they already activate the security officers at the sites, who are trained to give quick answers and inform the police," Morales said.

Thanks to the management software, Genesis can find any recording of the schools easily and send it to the commissioner, who can also receive the alerts directly through an application on his cell phone. It should be noted that all personnel who handle the system, both operators and technicians, have the certifications of Milestone Systems, which they obtained on the manufacturer's website. Gonzalez explained that school principals and neighbors can contact Central Station if they wish to report any suspicious activity within a school after regular hours.

Commissioner Gonzalez also clarifies that "if for any reason a school principal requires a recording, he must contact us, and we request the information from the Genesis operations center; this protocol is designed to respect the right to be in a place without feeling monitored at all times, as stipulated in Puerto Rico's public policies. In total, this system directly benefits nearly 400,000 people."

Learn first-hand about the benefits of Milestone Systems' VMS

More security and lower cost
According to the commissioner, since the first camera was installed, they went from two or three intrusions per day to one or zero. Last October, they had no record of intrusions. Genesis Security Services, Inc. confirmed that since the system has been up and running, there has been a 97% reduction in school intrusions.

Video technology has helped dispel issues such as theft of property by employees and, more importantly, has contributed to reducing rates of physical assault and harassment among students. These results have helped build trust among Puerto Rican families when they enroll their children in schools.

"The system provides agility and precision. It's more efficient and immediate than communicating with a guard who has to enter a facility to check what's going on. It's great to work with a system that has 24/7 visibility of the campuses," González said.

On the other hand, thanks to this project it was possible to reduce the cost of security in schools using technology, one of the main objectives of the Department of Education at the beginning.

"Annually we spent about 25 million dollars covering only 250 schools with the guard system, and we had almost 600 schools left unattended. This project gave us the possibility to cover 100% of Puerto Rico's public schools with the same budget," González said.

Finally, it is important to note that many of these schools are located in vulnerable places on the island, so the system is also helping the Police and the Prosecutor's Office to solve cases that occurred in the vicinity of the educational campuses, and in general to contribute to the well-being of the community.

Future projects
From the Department of Education, the Puerto Rican Government is looking for ways to integrate this type of video analytics systems with the programs and databases of sexual rights defenders.

"In the future we want to have a system that is able to identify if a sex offender crosses the perimeter in school zones to be able to alert in time," Gonzalez said.

On the side of Genesis, Morales assures that the next step with this project will be to begin to develop analytics for the VMS, to give not only perimeter security but also statistics such as counting people, vehicles and also integrate access control systems in all schools.

Discover the benefits of Milestone's VMS; schedule a demo here

Duván Chaverra Agudelo
Author: Duván Chaverra Agudelo
Jefe Editorial en Latin Press, Inc,.
Comunicador Social y Periodista con experiencia de más de 16 años en medios de comunicación. Apasionado por la tecnología y por esta industria. [email protected]

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