An in-depth look into the city’s surveillance system
As crime continues to mount on the streets of Wilkes-Barre, the administration, police, and concerned citizens look for ways to curb the rising violence. An integral piece of the crime prevention puzzle is the city’s surveillance camera system known as “Hawkeye.” Misleading or sometimes inaccurate news reports on the system’s functionality has lead to confusion about who runs the system, who owns the system, its crime prevention effectiveness, as well as the prudence of continued funding of the system. The Gazette performed an in-depth review of the Hawkeye security system, including viewing the cameras in operation both during the daytime and at night. We appreciate the openness and direct answers received from the owners of Legion Security Services and Greg Barrouck, and also for meeting us after hours and permitting the Gazette to view the system at work after dark. Presented are just the facts, as you, our readers, can decide Hawkeye’s fate.
The Hawkeye System
According to Gregory Barrouk, Vice President of Hawkeye Security Solutions, and Wilkes-Barre City’s Assistant City Administrator, the Hawkeye System is comprised of a network of just over 250 cameras citywide, which tally will soon be increased to over 300 once the installation of the Intermodal cameras is completed.
The surveillance network utilizes a number of different cameras, such as stationary mounted, 360 dome, and virtually invisible miniature cameras, all operating on a wireless Frontier network and transmitting data to the Hawkeye control room inside the city police station. All video feeds are automatically recorded by the Hawkeye System, and are stored on the main server for seven days, unless either Legion Security or the Wilkes-Barre City Police request data be “burnt” to optical disk to be retained for a period of years.
Hawkeye Facing Financial Trouble
After depleting nearly $5 million in federal and state grants since Hawkeye’s inception in 2008 to deploy its network of cameras, the Hawkeye board finds itself strapped for cash and barely able to meet the payroll of its camera monitoring staff, yet alone maintain the aging network of devices and transmitters. Following the loss of the Wilkes-Barre Area School District’s $7,500 monthly stipend, Hawkeye’s sole source of consistent revenue is now the $7,500 per month it receives from the Wilkes-Barre Parking Authority. Should that authority opt to follow the path taken by the school district, Hawkeye may very well find itself out of business, and unable to maintain normal operations.
At the April 2013 Hawkeye meeting, President Frank Majikes wouldn’t elaborate on questions of what Hawkeye’s plans are to move forward, in light of the loss of the school district’s funding, other than to say, “We are looking at all options.”
Legion Security Services Defends Reputation
Trent Miller and retired city police detective Dale Rinker are the owners of Legion Security Services, the company hired by Hawkeye to monitor the citywide camera network. They recently contacted the Gazette in an effort to clear the air regarding criticism over the security system.
One area of criticism focused on reports that Legion was given preferential treatment over other bidders and that Legion was formed only as a result of Hawkeye’s creation.
Both Miller and Rinker adamantly stated that neither was the case, and that they only learned of the “Hawkeye opportunity” when they noticed the RFP (Request for Professional Service) in the local newspaper. Rinker said, “Legion existed before the Hawkeye contract, and will continue to exist if we lose Hawkeye.”
Legion Security Services was incorporated on October 23rd, 2007, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State Corporations Bureau, while Hawkeye Security Solutions was incorporated as a nonprofit on September 12th, 2008, according to the bureau.
Until April 24th, 2013, Legion had manned the control center 24/7 at a rate of $15.00 per man hour.
Miller explained that prior to the April 2013 Hawkeye meeting, Legion Security Services, through its contract and contract amendments, was solely responsible for supplying one employee each hour to monitor the Hawkeye System 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, and that any overtime pay or staffing overrun expenses (created by sick or unavailable employees) were absorbed by Legion, as no provision for such “overages” were included in the Hawkeye contract. “We bill the client [Hawkeye Security Solutions] $15.00 per hour, regardless of what we have to pay our employees, and that’s it,” insisted Miller.
As of April 2013 Legion will only be manning the system an average of 12.6 hours per day, or, 88 hours per week, at the regular rate of $15.00 per hour. Additionally, any holidays will be billed at a rate of $22.50 per hour, and should an overtime situation occur because of the unavailability of police officers, an overtime rate of $22.50 would then be applied, but only if such a staffing request is received by Legion without 72 hours’ notice. The remaining 11.4 hours of daily control center coverage will be provided by city police, and paid for as part of the police officers’ regular duties.
Both Rinker and Miller stressed that Legion’s function is monitoring, and that they played no part in camera purchasing or placement.
Barrouk provided information on the two companies which supplied bids for monitoring the cameras, Legion Security Services and Century Security Services.
Barrouk provided a copy of the Monitoring RFP Matrix and a breakdown sheet outlining the differences between the two bidders that was used during the selection process. The thirteen-category matrix had a point-scoring system awarding Century 97 points and Legion 113.
In examining the matrix and breakdown sheet some differences were apparent, such as costs: Century bid $14.15/hour for an operator to $14.57/per hour for a supervisor, while Legion’s bid was a flat $13.00/hour. When it came to the management type, both Legion and Century responded with “chain of command,” yet Legion was graded with an 8, while Century received only a 7 for the same answer.
Another notable difference involved references. Although both companies offered their Detective License, Insurance, and other references, Century was awarded only 3 points while Legion received 9 for seemingly similar qualifications. When questioned about the sizable point gap, Barrouk said, “I wasn’t on the board back then, so I couldn’t tell you if there was more to the process,” referring to the Monitoring RFP Matrix and breakdown sheet.
Hawkeye Assists Police Department
Barrouk said the Hawkeye System has been instrumental in solving numerous crimes throughout the city, but for security reasons decline to provide specific crime details on the record. When pressed about the specific number of crimes solved as a direct result of the Hawkeye System, Barrouk’s only response was “those numbers aren’t tracked by Legion.”
When asked about the rash of cars vandalized last summer at city parkades, Barrouk responded, “We caught them,” referring to the effectiveness of Hawkeye’s cameras in identifying the vandals. When questioned about how helpful the system is to police, Barrouk claimed, “When interrogating a suspect, and they hear, ‘I have you on tape doing it,’ that usually changes their tune.”
License Plate Recognition Cameras
According to Barrouk, the Hawkeye System does have several cameras equipped with license plate recognition (LPR) capability—mainly in the city garages. The LPR cameras were paid for with the Federal COPS Technology Grant #2009CKWX0271, which was approved on September 24th, 2009, for the Police Records Management System, and was subsequently modified and revised on October 23rd, 2009, to purchase citywide surveillance cameras for the municipality. These devices were supposed to integrate with the Police Records Management System.
In the final report sent to the U.S. Department of Justice on April 24th, 2012, Police Chief Dessoye indicated there were no challenges or difficulties in implementing the project or meeting project goals and objectives. But according to Barrouk, the License Plate Recognition cameras are not yet linked to the Police Records Management System or to the NCIC, the National Crime Information Center.
Barrouk added, “The Police Department is currently working on linking the Hawkeye System to NCIC,” so any car wanted in connection with a crime would be flagged and reported to police automatically, upon the Hawkeye System’s capture of the plate. Unfortunately, Barrouk also claimed complications from “a mountain of red tape,” and offered no time frame for when the integration between Hawkeye and NCIC would or could be established.
Costs of Maintaining Hawkeye
In addition to the expenses associated with the initial camera installation, the Hawkeye System is costly to operate. According to Barrouk, “You don’t just place a camera on a pole, and that’s it. You have monitoring, network, and maintenance costs.”
Here is a breakdown of those costs prior to the recent monitoring developments:
Monitoring: $15/hour x 24 hours/day x 30 days/month x 12 months/year= $129,600/year
Network: Hawkeye pays Frontier Communications $200,000 for their annual data agreement to transmit camera video feeds to police headquarters.
Maintenance: As of the March 2013 Hawkeye board meeting, Hawkeye has only begun the process of selecting a maintenance contractor.
Checks issued: According to a 2009–2011 check register obtained by the Gazette through a Right-to-Know request, the city issued checks payable to Hawkeye in 2009, 2010, and 2011 totaling $3,582,726.60 ($700,360.00 in federal grants, $2,880,366.60 in state grants, and $2,000.00 from the city’s general fund).
Other than Legion Security and Alan Wohlstetter of Fox Rothschild, LLP, the Philadelphia-based law firm (owned in part by Patrick Murphy, brother of former city administrator, and former Hawkeye board member J.J. Murphy) selected by Hawkeye as their solicitor, Barrouk said Hawkeye has no paid employees. Wohlstetter also acts as the Right-to-Know (RTK) officer for Hawkeye, billing $510/hour at ten-minute intervals on all RTK requests. According to recent bills from Fox Rothschild, Hawkeye was charged no less than $5,494.91 for RTK processing from January–March 2013.
For the most part, Hawkeye is reactive, not proactive.
View from Hawkeye
The Independent Gazette was given two full-access tours of the Hawkeye control room—one during daylight at 2pm, and one after dusk—in an effort to gain a better understanding of how the surveillance network assists police, and of what Legion’s job function actually is.
Crystal-clear resolution was observed from all cameras, and we were able to view license plates on vehicles parked blocks away from the cameras. The Legion employee seemed extremely knowledgeable in camera functionality, and responded quickly to mock scenarios, such as rapidly switching from camera to camera throughout the city while tracking vehicles on the move, zooming in to monitor activities, and obtaining facial recognition of “suspects.”
Minimal blooming effects brought on by car headlights were observed, but overall, cameras in well-lit areas functioned as intended, and were still able to complete the mock scenarios described above. A good example was the North/N. Washington Streets camera located in a dimly lit area, which was able to capture a clear view of a vehicle’s license plate parked nearly two blocks away. Once again, the Legion employee was extremely knowledgeable, reacted fast, knew the Hawkeye system, and could instantly call up any camera feed upon demand.
Barrouk and the owners of Legion stated that either Legion or city police will provide only one employee at any time to monitor the entire 250-camera Hawkeye System. Just who will be assigned to the control room—a Legion employee or city officer—will depend on police staffing levels and whether a “light duty officer” is available.
A camera monitor/operator ratio study has been conducted by Dr. Craig Donald at TNO-FEL in Holland, and published in Hi-Tech Security Solutions: The Journal for Security, Operations & Risk Management. The study showed that accuracy detection scores drop rapidly as the number of cameras is increased; focusing on observers viewing one, four, six, and nine video monitors yielded accuracy detection scores of 85%, 74%, 58%, and 53%, respectively. The research also indicated that observers were significantly less likely to detect targets at greater depths or in the background area of the image when more monitors were being viewed, and that even small increases in the number of monitors could lead to significantly less detection. Dr. Donald’s research suggests a massive deficiency within the Hawkeye System, as one person—according to that research—cannot adequately operate the number of cameras utilized by Hawkeye at any given time.
When questioned about the study, Barrouk answered, “I read that study a few years ago, and sure, in a perfect world one monitoring employee for every ten cameras would seem appropriate, but financially, it’s just not possible.”
Real Time Monitoring vs Recording
Barrouk also told the Gazette, “In addition to the one employee monitoring the Hawkeye System, all camera views are captured and stored on the main server. However, Hawkeye does have the same challenges as many ordinary camera security systems when it comes to playback of past events. The system is limited to the angle, zoom magnification, clarity, and positioning of the camera at the time of the incident. In replay mode, many of key features such as zoom, capture, and enhancements functions described in the above mock scenarios would be unavailable.” He also noted, “For the most part, Hawkeye is reactive, not proactive.”
Frank Sorick may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org