Project Profile: Forsyth Detention Center Surveillance System

Since 1996 the Forsyth County Detention Center in North Carolina relied on eight cameras to help monitor the 800 detainees contained within eleven housing units. The system, while functional, only covered the most critical of areas.

For example, the intake processing system. When the center opened, staff relied on written documentation to track what possessions an individual had when entering the facility. Days, weeks or months later when that individual was released, it was sometimes a case of “he said, she said” with regards to that individual’s possessions. A Timex watch upon entry might have been claimed by an individual as a Rolex upon departure. It was clear the Center needed updating.

In 2007, Thorburn Associates was brought in to evaluate the security camera system, in addition to the door locking control systems and guard tour systems. The evaluation and subsequent report revealed significant opportunities for safer and more reliable operation of the facility. In addition, the Center could take advantage of advances in technology.

Specifically, the project originally called for coaxial video cameras, but when it came time to move forward on the install, Video over IP had become cost-effective, and provided for less intrusive installation and significant storage advantages. Video over IP creates video files that can easily be stored and played back from any standard network computer. The files are stored on a hard drive array that is easy and relatively cheap to expand (no more DVDs or VHS tapes!).

The Center now has over a few hundred cameras monitoring detainee movement, visitor movement, day rooms and exercise yards. Videos are time stamped and encoded to allow for use in trials. The data from the cameras flows over Category 6 cable and fiber optic backbones.

The switch to Video over IP allowed for cheaper labor installation and a lowered electricity cost. The cost savings were so significant, the project, which had been slated for four phases, was rolled into one singular project.

The system has been online for a few months, helping save the staff time and resolving inmate disputes. Thorburn Associates is proud to have been a part of the technology upgrade and systems solution.