CCTV solutions for theme parks
Using digital CCTV recordings for security reasons has prompted a host of ideas for other applications at the LEGOLAND* theme park in Windsor.
Providing a secure environment is a priority for any theme park – particularly one such as LEGOLAND* Windsor that has a lot of very young guests. Images of everyone entering or leaving the park are digitally recorded and cameras also keep watch over parking, retail and money-handling areas. Besides improving security, the high-quality surveillance system has also brought operational and financial benefits including a dramatic reduction in ticket fraud. Operations director Ryan Brady is planning further uses for the park’s CCTV system, which is based around Dallmeier digital video recorders.
LEGOLAND*’s 150 acres of parkland include shows, rides, restaurants and shops plus, of course, features made from the famous building bricks. Nearly 40 million LEGO* bricks have been used to create displays such as miniature – but nevertheless substantial – replicas of famous American and European landmarks.
A customised solution
The park opened in 1996. “At that time it was a different world from a security standpoint,” points out Brady. Some cameras were however installed from the outset, primarily to monitor vehicles and observe the perimeter area. The installed system was advanced for its time, combining as it did CCTV, access control, fire alarm and public address functions. However, shortcomings became apparent once the individual parts began to fail. “Technology has moved on since then,” says Brady. “We wanted a more bespoke, modular solution.”
One of the key decisions was to switch from tape recording to digital. “Reviewing tapes was very time consuming,” he recalls. Output from LEGOLAND*’s camera fleet is now stored on five Dallmeier digital video recorders, supplied by Bedfordshire-based installer CSG UK. One recorder covers the guest services area and entrance turnstiles; another records the park’s retail outlets; a third is at the service building and the fourth is for the highly secure cash office.
The fifth has a very different purpose – it is a standalone machine monitoring a single camera trained on the park’s live action show. The park records the show to monitor quality and also to capture any incidents that may happen during the course of the production.
Brady and the security team can display on their computers the recordings from any of the networked recorders and the associated cameras. The SmartFinder software is extremely straightforward to use, he finds. “It’s easy to navigate to a specific time or date.” Selected admissions and guest services managers can view images too while the Dallmeier system’s flexibility prevents them from changing any settings.
Deterring potential culprits
The primary reason for installing cameras at the turnstiles was for use in the scenario that every park operator fears – child abduction. “By having this system, we would be very much quicker in getting images to the police,” says Brady. “I think that the cameras we have at the entrance are a big deterrent to potential abductors.”
The system has also proved its worth in clamping down on a more commonplace but very costly crime. “Some annual pass holders try to use their cards fraudulently,” says Brady. “They pass them on to their relatives or friends.” Park entrance staff members are constantly vigilant for people acting suspiciously. The card is then confiscated and the high-resolution video recordings are saved.
“When contacted, the owner usually says that the card had been lost or stolen, so we respond that we’ll turn the CCTV images over to the police,” says Brady. “The story usually changes quite radically at that point – they admit that it was their uncle or cousin and they certainly don’t want to see them arrested for fraud.” There has now been a marked decrease in misuse of Annual Passes. “Word does get around,” says Brady.
Theft is perhaps less of an issue at LEGOLAND* than in many places. “We do get it from time to time, but it’s negligible really,” says Brady. Paying to get in deters opportunist thieves and expensive items tend to be bulky.
Another way in which the Dallmeier system has shown its effectiveness is in the ease of integrating the latest wireless cameras. Most of the original fibre cabling was routed around the perimeter, which has always made it expensive and difficult to add new units. “Wireless cameras give us more flexibility,” says Brady. “Ten years ago it would have been cost-prohibitive to put cameras everywhere that we’d like to.”
Further work is planned in conjunction with CSG UK to install new cameras to expand the network and replace older units. “Each year we focus on the key ones that need upgrading,” says CSG director David Ronis.
LEGOLAND*’s relationship with CSG dates back several years and stems from the recommendation of a Security Manager who had previously worked with the installer. “We had a lot of infrastructure needs that CSG was able to meet, including public address and CCTV installation,” says Brady. There are advantages in dealing with a single company. “We’ve got a unique site and there were a lot of issues in understanding the existing fibre network. It helps to have a supplier that knows the site.”
There was no question about which make of recorder to choose. “We recommend Dallmeier recorders because of their reliability and ease of use. They are very user-friendly – only a mouse is needed to operate them and you can find your way around the menus very quickly,” says Ronis. Sticking with Dallmeier helps CSG offer efficient customer support. “We can sort out most queries over the phone because we know the product so well.” He also praises Dallmeier’s forward repair policy – should a unit fail, a replacement is sent out within three days.
Another benefit for Brady is the Dallmeier’s compatibility with other storage devices. This makes it easy export images via USB 2.0 sockets and saves the need to make up CDs and DVDs. “We can use a memory stick to transfer images to a PC, then delete them and start over,” he says. Following a major incident, he could simply plug in a large external hard disc, copy across all the images and supply the disk to police.
Various application fields
Brady is convinced that the use of CCTV will continue to expand, with further applications that go beyond security. “I believe that within three or four years we will have to record rides from a legal standpoint.” Recorded images of all park attractions would allow the park to enforce safety guidelines in a more comprehensive manner.
He also envisages benefits from using an expanded camera network to improve the visitor experience. Sometimes rides have long queues. “We could pull up a camera from the other side of the park, see which rides were quieter and make an announcement. There are exciting developments from a technology standpoint,” believes Brady.