Tamper-Proof Cameras Provide Hard Line on Surveillance

Placing cameras in protective housing has become an ‘arms race’
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Placing cameras in protective housing has become an ‘arms race’

As law officers and government agencies push to place sensitive security cameras in an increasing number of critical locations, manufacturers have become more sophisticated in wrapping these fragile devices in tamper-proof, and almost indestructible, armor.

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Telmate’s Inmate Visitation Station The drive to make security cameras vandal-proof has become something of an arms race. As soon as the first camera was placed on a surveillance pole, there was probably some wily perpetrator there to spray black paint on the lens. Today, cameras feature such high-tech solutions as alarms that alert operators when someone is applying paint, as well as tough new forms of protective housing.

In all likelihood, one of the most challenging environments for such a camera is a prison or a detention facility. Telmate, a San Francisco-based company, installs such camera systems, including a high-tech kiosk called a Telmate Inmate Visitation Station, which inmates can use to phone home. The wall-mounted, self-contained kiosk houses a laptop computer with an Internet camera, a telephone-type handheld receiver and a display screen so the inmate can see the person on the other side of the call.

Fearful that inmates could use the handheld receiver to bash in the screen, breaking the equipment and creating glass shards that could be used as weapons, company officials attacked a number of samples with baseball bats, said Christopher Ditto, company spokesman.

“After breaking a number of competing hardened touch-screen surfaces in testing, we selected a 3 millimeter Secure Touch as our screen,” Ditto said. “It has a durable touch-screen interface that also allows the inmate access to a law library or commissary.”

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Canon’s VB-M600VE The kiosk represents a technological leap for prison visitation, eliminating the ever-present danger of contraband being passed from a visitor to an inmate, Ditto said. Because the interaction is recorded, any illicit information, such as a gang sign, is also tracked and can be used to stop future illegal activities, he added.

Canon’s VB-M600VE vandal-resistant dome camera has a broader applicability, for it is designed to use in areas that might also be subject to abuse, such as public transportation centers, shopping malls and schools, said Chuck Westfall, a company technical advisor in its professional environment and solutions division.

The fixed, outdoor, Internet protocol video security camera is housed in a clear polycarbonate dome mounted to an aluminum body, and has a dust and water-resistance rating of IP66. The camera can even withstand a hammer-wielding thug, Westfall said. “Inside the enclosure, the VB-M600VE lens is mounted in a damping mechanism to protect it against such impacts,” he said.

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Toshiba’s IK-WR14A The Canon VB-M600VE features a 1.3-Megapixel complementary-symmetry metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor, Canon DIGIC NET image processing and simultaneous transmission of high-quality video up to 1280x960/30 fps in bandwidth-saving H.264 and Motion-JPEG. The CMOS sensor captures image detail in low-illumination environments down to at least .03 lux at f/1.6 and 1/8 sec. in color and at least .001 lux at f/1.6 and 1/8 sec. in black and white, according to Canon.

Toshiba’s line of vandalproof cameras includes the IK-WR14A, which is placed in schools, jails and other public places, said Dan O’Connell, company spokesman. The cameras have special anti-vandal software.

“It can detect if someone has vandalized a camera,” O’Connell said. “For example, a spray-painted lens or (if someone) just pushed the camera out of view, the software detects these events and will e-mail an alert to security.”

The IK-WR14A also reduces upfront installation time with its incorporation of a remote optical zoom, one-touch remote focus and a new cable management system—based on PoE. H.264 and SRLED—which allows capture of 1080p full HD resolution video at 30 frames-per-second in any lighting condition. And, only a single Ethernet cable is needed to connect the IK-WR14A to the network and electrical power.

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JVC’s VNH-137U

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JVC has two new series of vandal-resistant cameras, the VNH-137U and the VNH-157WPU series, which have a feature called Tamper Alarm, said John Grabowski of the JVC Professional Products Security Division. The new hardy cameras offer 1080p full HD resolution with Super LoLux HD technology for superior color reproduction, even in low light.

“If someone tampers with the camera, this would be a ‘trigger’ for an alarm condition,” to alert the camera operator that something is amiss, Grabowski said.