Credit Union's Digital Video Keeps Members' Money Safe
Credit Union's Digital Video Keeps Members' Money Safe

Dec 1, 2003 12:00 PM

Financial institutions tend to be proactive about security. Yet their protection can only be as good as the equipment available on the market. Consider the case of the Snohomish County Public Employees Federal Credit Union (referred to as the SNOCOPE Federal Credit Union) in Everett, Wash. The not-for-profit credit union opened in 1959, and since then, has only had two robberies.

"The first robbery occurred in 1999," says Denise Shaw, vice president of operations and information systems at the credit union. "The robbery was captured on video surveillance cameras, but the videotape was useless."

The only thing that was clear was that the robber was wearing a green Army jacket and a ball cap. The image was too fuzzy to even determine his race, Shaw says.

"It had bugged me for a long time," Shaw says. "What's the purpose of having all this equipment if it doesn't give you the information you need?"

Shaw set out to find a better solution. She consulted with other credit unions, requesting information on the products they use and their satisfaction with those products. She found that they were not happy with the resolution or the available storage space.

The credit union had specific needs. It wanted to conserve space and have better image technology. More importantly, its insurance company wanted the credit union to have 120 days worth of image storage, because since members only receive quarterly statements, a member might not see a potential fraud for three months. By that time, the institution would have lost the image.

Even the available higher-end products were not offering more than 30 days of internal storage, Shaw says. The original system had included Sonitrol's Audio Detection intrusion system, a seven-camera CCTV system with a multiplexer, VCR and monitor. Since Shaw was satisfied with Sonitrol's product and support, she called in Sonitrol Pacific's Everett branch and talked to manager Kerry Goodwin.

Goodwin assessed the 14,000-square-foot, two-story build-ing and initially looked at a system that would tie into the credit union's computer network.

"We thought they were the vendor we wanted to work with, but the CCTV system crashed every time the network crashed," Goodwin says. "This is a mission-critical device. We needed a system that was not dependent on the network."

Goodwin turned to Dedicated Micros for a solution, and wound up buying the Digital Sprite 2, nine-channel DVMR with 320GB of internal data storage and the KB3 keyboard. This solution supported the Philips fixed color cameras and two Sony color monitors, all of which tied into Sonitrol's Advantage Plus security control panel.

"Dedicated Micros products are not dependent on the network, which gave us the flexibility to put it on a LAN, WAN or connect it to the Internet," said Goodwin.

Ben Keith, a Dedicated Micros representative and president of Gold Line Marketing Inc., Seattle, came out to train the staff. "He trained us on the equipment within an hour," Shaw says, "and the manual is very simple to understand."

There were few obstacles during the installation. Part of the installation was done during off-hours, so as not to disturb members. Credit union representatives were scheduled to be in the facility during the work.

There was also the issue of implementing an internal network firewall for remote access. "They were concerned about someone hacking into their network by accessing our firewall," Goodwin says. "We worked with Dedicated Micros to develop a way to make the firewall impermeable to other people."

Within the first year of the new security system installation, the system was put to the test. The credit union was robbed for a second time, but this time the technology saved the day.

When the police officers came on the scene, Shaw copied the image from the computer as she had been trained to do, and handed them a jpeg file.

Shaw then had a witness watch her record multiple watermarked images onto a CD, copy the CD's serial number, and then she integrity-sealed the CD before handing it to the officer. "I made several copies, including one for the officer, one for my testimony and one for backup," she says.

The photo of the female robber ran on the evening news, and leads poured in immediately. The woman was apprehended, and confessed to the robbery.

"We got her both coming into the building and leaving it," Shaw says, "and because Sonitrol came out and helped me record the AVI, I could testify that I had called trained experts."

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