Geutebruck video surveillance technology is key to Australian suicide prevention project
Geutebruck | Date:
Gap Park in Sydney, Australia, extends for a couple of kilometres along sheer rugged cliffs facing the Pacific Ocean. It is an area of stunning scenery which has a sad history of suicides, accidents and unexplained deaths. To reduce these human tragedies Woollahra Municipal Council implemented a master plan involving both deterrence and response measures, a key element of which is a Geutebruck GeViScope-based video security system designed by Security Consultants International and installed by Kings Security Systems.
Consultations with local residents, mental health and crisis support agencies revealed that troubled individuals attracted to this dangerous and relatively isolated location often spend several hours on the cliff tops before finally deciding to commit suicide, and that active intervention during this period might save life. So the council's plan included video surveillance to identify critical incidents day or night and assist rapid police intervention, as well as improvements to the park's amenities and safety infrastructure.
The project began with restyling the park entries, erecting new inward curving fences along the cliff edge to deter climbing, as well as installing new seating and low level LED lighting to improve the ambience especially at night. New signs were added to draw attention to two purpose-built, vandal-resistant telephone help points. These have autodialing for the charity Lifeline and the emergency services, together with automatic audio visual feeds and location ID. Four Bosch MIC 412 thermal PTZ cameras were positioned to provide vision at night and in bad weather, at considerable distance and amongst vegetation.
With additional federal funding in 2011 came a GeViScopeHS/R with an expansion unit; additional fixed view cameras for monitoring the telephone help points; and five Moog ‘thermal & optical' cameras for providing thermal and optical views at the same time.
Most cameras are concentrated near the entrances and along the cliff-top walk so that monitoring centre operators can help police with missing persons searches by identifying individuals as they enter or leave the park, and locating them if they remain in the park.
The remote operator only views the live video and assesses the situation when requested to do so by the police – i.e. when a member of the public has reported a possible incident, when there has been an emergency call from a help point, or following an alert from Lifeline. The operator can also review recorded footage for post-incident investigation but only with specific permission from the Council.
Justine Henderson, communications manager and spokesperson for Woollahra Council reports, “We know the footage has been useful to police in responding to potential on site emergencies as we've seen an increase in use of the monitoring provided by the camera system. At the start of the project the footage was being used for retrospective investigations and now it is being used more for direct interventions – which is a good result.”
Analytics identifies dangerous incidents
In autumn 2011 an extended trial using a selection of existing cameras was successful in establishing that the Geutebruck GeViScope's VMD video analysis function running on thermal camera streams could accurately identify dangerous incidents and provide a reliable basis for alerting the emergency services.
The VMD software was set up with two lines of alarm zones, one along the fence and one parallel on the seaward side. Time thresholds were used to pick up someone climbing over the fence, and an alarm was set to trigger immediately if a target moved from the first line of zones into the second line at the cliff edge.
The system correctly identified incidents where individuals, or groups, breached the safety fence and ventured out to the cliff edge. Some people were clearly just making sight-seeing or thrill-seeking explorations but others seemed to have more troubled motivations. False alarms were minimal and proved very easy for operators to recognise and disregard.
In the light of this, Woollahra Council is seeking funding to add a small number of fixed view cameras to the video system to establish a permanent analytic detection ‘fence line'. This VMD option is substantially cheaper than ground-based radar and offers the advantage of combining video display, detection and verification all in one. With some dedicated fixed view cameras taking care of these core functions, the existing PTZ cameras would then be available to provide the operator with a wider view, more accurate details etc., without risk of disturbing the VMD function.
“Geutebrück Pacific's entire team are particularity proud of this project,” says managing director, Anthony Brooks. “It's very exciting to be applying this advanced technology outside the traditional security environment and particularly where it has the potential to deliver very positive outcomes for many individuals and their families. We can't think of a more worthwhile and satisfying project.”