Sunday, April 27, 2008

Why do cameras cost 3.1 million dollars?

Why would the county have to spend 6.9 million dollars for video cameras?

According to an old story in the Virginia-pilot "Bills coming due for Prince William County's excess:

The county is stuck with a bill for $3 million to install and monitor cameras in its 270 police cars. The cameras are needed to protect the county against lawsuits invited by the new rules

WJLA reported:

It will cost $1.8 million to install cameras in the county's 270 patrol cars, and Wittman says he will request 80 percent federal funding. It will cost an additional $1.2 million to monitor the camera footage.

Ok. So first, the cameras cost 1.8 million, but we hope to get 80% back, which means the real cost would be $360,000. Of course, we can't be sure we could get that money.

But let's step back. 270 patrol cars are to get cameras. 1.8 million dollars. That means each camera costs $6,666 dollars.

$6,666 dollars for a video camera. A camera which simply has to record in some vague detail images of a police officer and the person they are talking to, maybe a license plate.

Heck, the important thing is what is SAID, not really the picture.

$6,666 dollars? You can get a hi-def sony camcorder, that puts data direct to chip, for about $1200. Add $400 for a rubber shock mount. At low-res (you don't need hi-def for what we are doing) we can drop the data on a chip, and drop it onto a terrabyte hard drive for about $500 bucks, which has enough space to store a year's worth of data for one of the cameras. That's less than half the price they are quoting here.

Or you could do something cheaper. I picked up a nice little hi-def camera for my son. It's fixed focus, has no moving parts, drops the data onto a little chip. Price - $120 on sale. You can get the same camera for $80 in regular def instead of hi-def. Sounds not that good though.

Or why video at all? The issue here is whether the police say something that suggests a civil rights problem. why not just record the audio? I've got a recording mp3 player. About 80 bucks, stores hundreds of hours of audio. If you have to, combing it with that $120 camera. Now you've spent $200 bucks.

But then there's the $1.2 MILLION needed to monitor the pictures. Per year. Well, 270 police cars all with real-time feeds might take a few people to monitor.

Except we weren't putting these in for real-time monitoring. we were putting these in to protect us from a civil rights lawsuit.

So we don't have to monitor any of them. We just need to catalog and store them. If someone sues, we can pull the images and audio from that stop, and random stops before and after from the same officer.

Unless we are expecting hundreds of lawsuits (hard to imagine, as there aren't hundreds of people being pulled over), it shouldn't take more than one full-time employee to handle the storage, retrieval, and review of the evidence on an as-needed basis. That's $80,000 max.

Let's add in $20,000 for a nice server, some video editing software, and a nice large-screen TV and comfy chair.

So I've got 270 cameras at $300 each (I decided to go back to a nice mid-range camera with auto-focus), 270 wireless transmitter-receiver microphones for about $300 each (so the police officer can wear the microphone and record onto the video), 270*10 SDRAM digital storage cards, at $30 each (or 270*$300) (so the technician can go on vacation for a week and store the data off when they get back), $20,000 in computer equipment, $10,000 for a 10-terabyte RAID storage system, and one $80,000 technician to run it all.

270*(300+300+300) = $243,000.
+ $20,000 + $10,000 = $273,000.
+ $80,000 = $353,000.

So, $353,000, compared to the 3.1 million they are asking for.

Obviously, I'm missing something. But is it what we really needed the cameras for, or is it just that the cool camera system they are looking at is just so much more expensive than what we would need to meet the bare minimum requirement for keeping our police officers from being unjustly charged with violating someone's civil rights.


Scott White said...

I can tell you that your solutions of consumer grade video equipment won't work in the long run. In car cameras are fairly specialized equipment for a couple of reasons.

They are hardened to tolerate the physical abuse of riding in a car. While your personal "handy cam" may work for a little while, after repeated, day after day vibrations of being constantly in a car, they will fail.

Access to the recording media must be restricted and controlled. If the video is to be used as evidence, a tight custodial trail must be maintained.

There are evidentiary considerations mandated by the state and federal governments for storage of the recorded files which must also have tight custodial controls. The idea of a local "hard disk" available to anyone in the department will not withstand the scrutiny of a court trial.

Without seeing the complete program outline by this agency, its a little hard to comment on their program, but I can tell you that it may not be far off base on the numbers.

Paul said...

New anti-immigrant army forming in Fairfax to reduce the number of illegals in our community.

We have new youtube channel with a few videos from this past weekend.

Anonymous said...

Someone in government has a brother-in-law that has to eat, really well. Same story nation wide when it comes to buying equipment for public use. Payoff's cost more than the actual equipment.
I'll bet no one in the county objects to a 'legal' immigrant. Am I wrong or do some of the people consider criminals 'legal' immigrants? I know it's hard for a liberal to accept the fact that there is no such thing as an illegal, one foot across the border and you are a criminal. If we don't deport them for violating the law then we don't need the camera's. Just quit enforcing all laws. Only the strong and heavly armed will survive.

Timothy Watson said...

Those cameras, as Scott White pointed out, cost a lot of money:

Not only do you have to pay for the cameras, you have to get them installed!

It's a complete pain in the ass to install stuff in cars (I helped my brother [he's a volunteer firefighter] install some stuff in his car).

I find it interesting that Prince William County hasn't already purchased cameras for their patrol cars. I live in Caroline County (population 27,000) and the Sheriff's Office has had cameras in their cars for years.

Riley said...

With a whole new fleet of police cars coming online in PWC, it was incredibly myopic for Chief Deane not to have had cameras installed at that time. Even then, that would have been years after it should have been done in PWC, but at least it would be justifiable from a cost-standpoint.

Rash said...

Nice post.

The cost of the camera in the present market is going on decreasing compare to the early days cost. This camera are also used with the Wireless long range audio video receivers and transmitterswhich has been installed in automobiles or inside the building.