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Lancaster City Housing Authority

May 20 2016
Case Study • May 2016
Lancaster City Housing Authority
Lancaster City Housing Authority collage

Background

Beth Detz serves as Director of Public Housing for the Lancaster City Housing Authority (LCHA), which provides housing to persons with low income. Detz says, "We have two programs, one is public housing and one is Section 8." She shares that there are two nine-story high-rise buildings, Church Street Towers and Farnum Street Towers. These buildings are for the elderly and persons with disabilities, and feature a common area, lobby, laundry room, and parking lots. LCHA also has two family sites, Susquehanna Court and Franklin Terrace, one with 75 units and the other with 124.

"At the high-rises, we've probably had cameras for a good fifteen years. We started with our maintenance supervisor just putting in a couple, and learning as he went," Detz states, "At the family sites, we did not have any cameras there previously, so we wanted some. At the high-rises, in the beginning we would only have one or two areas, and then something would happen in a different area so we thought, 'Oh, we should have a camera there,' and a little bit later on, 'We should have a camera here.' It just continued to grow until we needed a more sophisticated system that could have more cameras on it. Over the years, we had purchased cameras through a catalog, or went to an electronics store. They weren't the best quality – we could see something happening, but we couldn't really see the person – so that's why we were looking for a company that [offered] a better quality camera."

"The way we found out about App-Techs," Detz shares, "is when we decided to add [cameras] down at Susquehanna and Franklin ... and increase the cameras at the high-rises. We actually put out a Request for Proposals because we knew it was going to be over our sole-source thresholds ... We did our due diligence, and looked at the price, but it was a pretty easy choice. Overall, we've been happy with App-Techs."


Solutions

App-Techs has equipped LCHA with our EasyNVR servers at each of their sites throughout the city of Lancaster. The servers all function independently of one another. The two family sites are running Milestone Essentials video management software, while the high-rises are being upgraded to the Milestone Express level to better meet those locations' developing needs. The Farnum Street site's server also employs a "stretch board." Technican Ryan John says, "We integrated a PCI capture card that takes in all of the analog camera feeds, so it's like an encoder is embedded into our EasyNVR."

While Church and Farnum have a mix of analog and digital cameras, and are going to be adding PTZ cameras whose view can be controlled via joystick, Susquehanna and Franklin have all networked, digital, IP cameras – Hikvision and Panasonic for the most part, with a few Arecont bullet cameras at Susquehanna. "There's a Hikvision 'Darkfighter' at Church and Farnum," sales associate Jenny Romanosky notes, "a really good, low-light, PTZ camera."

The high-rise buildings are in close proximity, and have fiber running between them, so there is no need to employ wireless networking. "The other two sites, Susquehanna and Franklin, are using wireless, point-to-point with Ubiquiti radios," says John, and then adds, "We created junction boxes, with everything mounted in them – so basically cameras, radios and power supplies are all in those junction boxes."

Project manager Andrew Haefner states that, in addition to outdoor cameras, "Franklin has one indoor camera. Susquehanna does not have any, but really they're all planning to try and expand their systems. Susquehanna's going to be adding a couple indoor cameras as part of the plan, as well as an intercom. Another thing about Susquehanna is they are likely going to be one of the first customers we have who are going to use wireless restarts. They have an issue with power surges in the buildings, and it causes cameras to go offline. The plan is to implement [Z-Wave wireless communication technology] to restart the cameras because they're having these power issues. It's inconvenient for [LCHA staff] to get up to the cameras because a lot of them are on the buildings, and you have tenant yards that are gated off." As always, App-Techs is committed to finding new and innovative solutions which effectively resolve issues for our customers.

Results

Bob Peregrin, also a Housing Administrator for LCHA, says, "One of the very important things we use the cameras for is the police. At times, there are incidents that occur within and around the building ... a break-in, the theft of a car that's in the parking lot, damage done to a vehicle ... a person coming into the building that could be drug-related, or [someone who] causes an altercation or a domestic disturbance. There are a number of occasions where we have provided [police] with either pictures of the suspects and/or video footage that we put onto a flash drive or a DVD for them. It's been a big help both to us and obviously to the police, and to the safety of both our residents and the community."

"There are also things that go on in-house that we use the cameras regularly for," Peregrin continues. "There could be someone who causes damage in the community room and we have cameras there. We try to uncover the [culprit], and then take action according to the lease and damages. Recently there was someone who had been sleeping in the community room, and was seen around the building. We caught him on camera and sent him a letter banning him from the building. There's a paneled board where for a time I'll put a picture up [in case] someone would see an individual coming or going who's caused a problem, incident, disturbance or threat, [asking] if they would see them to contact the office or the police. I've caught residents [on camera] in the act of a theft of someone else's property. I've been able to ... go immediately to the resident, showing them the evidence [so they might come] forward with that which they had taken."

Here colleague Beth Detz chimes in, "Sometimes when that kind of thing happens, we'll confront the resident first and they'll say, 'Oh, no, I didn't do that,' and then we say, 'Well, here's the picture of you doing it.' A picture is worth a thousand words!" She also points out, "The only people who really look at the surveillance [recordings] are LCHA staff members. In cases where we do have to show it to police or other residents, we only do that when it's absolutely necessary, so it's not something that is for public viewing.

Peregrin shares, "Some of these have led to evictions. I can think of [instances] where someone had been warned because an individual was known to be living in a unit. [The tenant was] denying it ... and I had video footage or pictures of them with the person coming and going from the building. On a couple occasions, that led to the eviction of the tenant for allowing the person to be living there. It's low-income, public housing subsidized by the government, and it's considered fraud to have people living there beyond the time stated in the lease when residents are allowed to have a guest." He says that cameras can help support his actions with such rule violations.

Regarding LCHA's experience with App-Techs, Detz affirms, "It's been good. One thing I like, with a lot of companies now, it's so big and they out-source. You're calling, and they're not even in the state. They don't know who you are. With App-Techs, they're more of a small, local company. It's nice because Jenny, Andrew, and our staff know each other and they're on a first-name basis. It's not like you're just a number." Peregin adds, "There's been a number of occasions where we had issues with the video footage, or how to access it, or some minor issue, and [technicians] can do it off-site. They're only a phone call or an email away, or they bring someone on-site if they need to."

He states that technician Ryan John "was here most recently to help us with questions and issues we had, like how to do a quad picture ... where we can have both entrances, and two shots of the lobby ... rather than just the individual view or a dual picture of two sites. He came on-site and was educating us." He adds, "We're looking at a proposal that Jenny Romanosky sent us ... either replacing that which is there to give us a better range and clarity, or adding a camera in front of one of the buildings where there had been some police activity in the past.

Peregrin concludes by saying that App-Techs is "prompt in responding to calls and requests. They are very accessible and I think they've been very accommodating. They have said multiple times to give them a call, and they would help guide us through. Particularly for someone like myself who's not savvy or highly technical, they're there – very helpful and responsive."

To learn more about how App-Techs can help your organization, call (717) 735-0848, contact our sales department, or visit our website.