Gated community ditches guard service, goes to live-monitored video

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Monday, February 15, 2010

SAN ANTONIO—The upscale, gated community of Vineyard Subdivisions, located outside of San Antonio, and its more than 800 homes continued to experience extensive property damage, despite having security measures in place.

“We had gone to roving security in the community and we found that although security was on site, they weren’t really deferring some of the high-expense vandalism,” said Jeffrey Kahl, president of the Vineyard’s homeowners association. The community continued to experience extensive damage to several of its six-gate entrances, which resulted in expensive repair costs. In addition, there was regular vandalism and trespassing issues occurring at the pool and recreation areas. “Security was not having the authority we needed and wasn’t going to prevent anyone from causing damage. It was almost a joke,” he said.

The board decided it needed to try something else. It brought in Pro-Vigil, a systems integrator, to provide live monitoring of a video surveillance system. “We decided to give it a test trial and they brought out portable units to view the gates,” said Kahl. Pro-Vigil installed IP megapixel cameras from Axis to view the gates as well as in the recreation facility.

As a result, Kahl said vandalism and damage in the community has been drastically reduced. And while Pro-Vigil provides live monitoring of the cameras to proactively prevent incidents, Kahl said putting the camera system in place has kept people honest. “We’ve eliminated all gate damage due to negligence and one person that accidentally rammed the gate, because of the cameras, called in and told us that they had done it,” he said.

The key to getting this system in place was largely the way the board approached community members. “We set it up on a provisional basis and let them get used to it and we got feedback and looked at finances to see fiscally how this affected us,” he said. It became apparent quickly that this system would be significantly less expensive than a roving guard patrol and was more effective in preventing and mitigating vandalism.

In addition to cameras, Pro-Vigil also installed a PA system along with strobe lights to warn intruders that they were being monitored. “We play different types of messages warning that the pool is now closed and we work our way up to notifying the authorities,” said Jeremy White, CEO of Pro-Vigil.

However, there were some initial “big brother” complaints from community members about adding a surveillance system on the premises. Kahl said they solved this issue by allowing all community members to log onto Pro-Vigil’s online browser and view live footage of all the cameras.

While installing the system was relatively easy, Kahl said the community ran into a few issues getting the infrastructure in place. “We had a hard time getting the cable company to run service to the recreation area and had to start off with air cards and that affected the speed,” he said. But once they had that in place, things ran relatively smoothly, he said. And, because the cameras monitoring the gates are wireless, Kahl said they can move or add cameras to areas that are experiencing issues.