Stepping up security on the buses of Madrid

Madrid, Spain

Security on the buses of Madrid

Thousands of buses made safer with network video on board. Imagine that you are responsible for the overall security on the public buses in a major city. You have thousands of buses in your fleet, operating day and night. The society's crime trends are against you, showing increasing numbers each year, and your budget makes it impossible to have security guards on board. Still, your main goal is to create a safe working environment for the drivers and an attractive transportation option for the city's commuters, citizens and tourists. What would you do, and where would you start?

This was the situation for Iñigo Rodríguez-Rovira Rodríguez when he accepted the position as Security Manager of La Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid (EMT), the company which owns and operates the local buses in Spain's capital Madrid. Since then, EMT and the local authorities have had several discussions about the need to improve the security on board. "Only a year ago, we had no active surveillance system on our buses, and they were sometimes exposed to graffiti or pickpockets. In case of an incident, it was very difficult to identify a troublemaker unless he or she was caught in the act, which did not happen very often," says Rodríguez.

Extensive evaluation and pilot projects
It soon became clear that an onboard surveillance solution would help EMT to reach their goals. "We evaluated various ways to efficiently monitor and track the incidents on our buses," explains Rodríguez. "In addition, we looked for a system that would allow us to quickly decide on appropriate actions following an incident. Based on our own conclusions, and the experiences from other similar projects, we decided to go for video surveillance."

When EMT announced their plans, they received 13 different proposals for onboard surveillance systems. Rodríguez remembers that he and his colleagues reviewed more than 13,000 pages of material in the evaluation process, which eventually guided them to the final solution.

Selection criteria favoured an IP-based solution
"During a period of 6 months, we installed and evaluated 10 surveillance systems on 10 different buses. One of the criteria was the capability to provide reliable access to live video from the buses," says Rodríguez. "It should also be possible to integrate the surveillance system with other systems on board and to easily expand it to meet future requirements."

The evaluation favoured a network-based surveillance solution and EMT decided to install cameras from Axis Communications that are especially designed for use on buses and trains. These cameras can handle the tough environment on board, including vibrations, temperature fluctuations and moisture. "We were very impressed by the capabilities of the Axis cameras. They provided the best image quality and the H.264 compression made it possible to efficiently transfer and store the video," says Rodríguez.

More than 4,500 cameras successfully installed
To date, about 1,200 of Madrid's buses have been equipped with Axis network cameras. "We install cameras in three buses per depot every day and there are a total of more than 4,500 cameras in place," says Rodríguez. The video from the cameras is recorded locally on board and transferred wirelessly to a central storage when the buses are in depot overnight. We are very happy with the solution as we haven't had a single issue with the cameras so far, despite the high number of units in use."

Access to live video helps to take appropriate actions
The video from the buses can also be viewed in real-time from an alarm centre in Madrid, operated by the security company Segur Control. Jose Ignacio González López, Manager of the alarm central, says that this capability is of great benefit. "In case of an incident, the driver gets our attention by pressing a button. We can then look at live video from the bus and easily make a correct evaluation of the situation. Depending on what we see, we decide what action to take, and whether to involve the police, emergency services or EMT. Each bus is also equipped with GPS and can be followed by our operators directly on a map, enabling us to give the exact position of any bus at all times."

An effective way to fight vandalism and crime
The new surveillance system on Madrid's buses has not only helped to reduce the costs for incident responses. It has also given EMT an efficient tool to prevent crime and to investigate various incidents on board. "Only one of our drivers has been robbed since the first cameras were installed about half a year ago. And in other incidents, the new system has helped to identify faces of the people involved," says security manager Rodríguez. He estimates the yearly costs for vandalism and graffiti at about? 600,000, a cost that he hopes will decrease moving forward. At the same time, he is looking forward to analysing the passenger statistics. "By keeping our buses safe and secure, we will also attract more passengers," he concludes.

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