Safe, well-maintained, affordable housing plays a vital role in supporting less-advantaged groups and enabling social mobility. More than 55,700 low- and middle-income residents — including many seniors and people living with disabilities — rely on Dallas Housing Authority (DHA) to help them provide a secure and stable home environment for their families.
As the tenth largest public housing authority in the United States, DHA owns and operates over 6,000 rental housing units across 40 developments in the Dallas area, including public housing and mixed-income communities. Managing all these locations is a big job.
“It’s like we’re operating a city within the larger city of Dallas,” says Tim Lott, Vice President of Capital Programs. “But we do it all for the families we serve.”
Keeping its communities safe is DHA’s top priority, but crime is an ever-present threat. In the past, the agency relied on security or police officers patrolling its properties, but limited resources meant that it was difficult to provide comprehensive coverage for every neighborhood. DHA also tried deploying cameras at some of its locations, but adequate resources was still an issue: personnel had to be on site at each location to monitor the video feeds and alert police, building management or security teams whenever an incident occurred.
“We wanted to use technology to help us streamline our operations and bring in 21st century policing,” explains DHA’s President, Chief Executive Officer and Board Secretary, Troy Broussard
DHA realized that expanding its use of video surveillance technology would be the most effective way to protect its residents. However, simply installing additional cameras was not the answer. Instead, the agency needed to build an extensive wireless network that would connect all its cameras to a central control room. By streaming all the live video feeds over this network, DHA’s security team would be able to monitor all its housing efficiently 24/7, share data with the Dallas Police Department in real time, and dispatch security, police, fire or ambulance services to respond rapidly to incidents anywhere in the city.
To build this network, DHA chose Hitachi Vantara as its technology partner. “The Hitachi team doesn’t just introduce technology to our portfolio, they bring solutions and ideas to the table as well,” says Troy Broussard. “They look at each community, identify its strengths and weaknesses in terms of geographical deployment of the systems, and then develop a plan to accommodate those needs at each property.”
Together, DHA and Hitachi have now installed more than 500 video cameras at DHA properties across the city and connected them using a variety of wired and wireless network devices. Instead of adopting a rigid one-size-fits-all approach, the Hitachi team adapted to the diversity of the built environment to deliver a highly robust network that transmits data across considerable distances to a new central control room at DHA’s head office.
Besides planning and installing the cameras and network devices, Hitachi also provided all the servers and storage systems required to process and store the video data. The DHA security team uses Hitachi Visualization Suite software to display all the video feeds together with relevant data and analytics on a single pane of glass. The software is also integrated with an Ocularis video management system to help capture footage as evidence for police investigations. And the solution even includes license plate recognition technology, to help police identify known criminals by their vehicles.
Reflecting on the value of the solution, Troy Broussard says: “Some directors of housing authorities may see it as a cost-prohibitive investment. But I would say that a good administrator should look beyond that and understand that enhanced technology provides safer communities for the families that they’re serving. The investment pays off in the long run for the families that call our properties home.”
While the initial investment was significant for DHA, the technology is already beginning to pay its way by reducing the organization’s operational expenses. Instead of requiring a large team of officers to patrol individual sites, a single operative can monitor DHA’s entire property portfolio from the central control room. And with greater situational awareness of incidents across the city, the security team can deploy its resources much more quickly and effectively to keep residents safe.
Troy Broussard adds: “I don’t think it’s about measuring quantifiable results — it’s a deeper conversation. We’re talking about life and security. We have had incidents where a serious crime has occurred, and we were able to use the Hitachi Vantara technology to help identify the perpetrators. It goes beyond the dollars and cents.”
David Zappasodi, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, concludes: “Everybody, no matter what their income is, deserves a good place to live, that’s relatively safe. And we’re committed to fulfill that mission.”