The Richmond County Marshal’s Office will have more eyes in more places while using fewer employees after its central monitoring project takes flight in the coming months.
Last week, the Augusta Commission approved the department’s $290,900 contract with SimplexGrinnell, which will assist in creating a system that will allow the department to consolidate its surveillance systems into a central location at the marshal’s substation on Deans Bridge Road.
“What we’re trying to do is expand asset protection of the city,” Marshal Steve Smith said. “Right now, we’re providing 24-hour video security at the Augusta Regional Airport, at the judicial center, eventually at the municipal building and at other locations throughout the county.”
The department monitors nearly 400 cameras from six different facilities. Some city departments contract third-party companies to monitor their systems.
Jeff Barrett, an administrator for the marshal’s office, said the system designed by SimplexGrinnell will help the department to consolidate existing hardware at the facilities monitored by the marshal’s office and allow other departments to buy into the program regardless of their current setup.
“What we’ve done is, we’ve bought into a system that basically allows us to tie everything together ...,” he said. “The concept also is sort of plug-and-play. Once the system is in place, you don’t have to buy a system at every place. You just buy the other components.”
The department has a specially built room set aside at its Deans Bridge Road substation that will house the monitoring station. Artist’s renderings show that the setup probably will include a large desk filled with monitors that can accommodate several part-time employees at a time. Initially, the system will be staffed by a single employee 24 hours a day.
Though there is no official start date in place, Barrett said, the project has been in the works about three years. Officials used the time to find funding, Barrett said. The money will come from various capital accounts and will be supplemented by money provided by participating agencies, he said.
When it comes to protecting city assets, Barrett said, the cost is worth it.
“We feel like being able to prevent the losses to begin with will be a savings on the asset side,” he said. “Having one location instead of multiple will be a savings on the cost side.”
Smith said he believes the new system will also serve as a preventative measure for the department, much like placing an extra officer at the monitored site. For some locations, such as the burglary-prone Augusta Aquatic Center, the system will be a huge addition, he said.
“Any time that there is a function there, it will be monitored,” he said.
The change will take time, however.
“It’s going to be a long journey because we’re just now starting this with a foundation,” Smith said. “Eventually, we’re hoping to cover all of the county’s assets.”