Cameras in public places are becoming more commonplace. Cities frequently install cameras on light poles overlooking street corners, at hot spots around the city, on government buildings, and other places. Private citizens also buy and install outside cameras, putting them in or on their homes and businesses.

“People seem to feel safer knowing that the area they are in is being watched. In most cases, they believe that someone’s watching the surrounding area and not specifically them. Cameras are supposed to be a deterrent,” said Ed Heinemann, senior project manager for ATC International of Miami.

Electrical contractors (ECs) are in a good position to sell and install outdoor public cameras. Not only do commercial electricians have the skills necessary to do the work, they are usually well equipped with all the necessary tools to make it happen.

The primary issue is one of mindset combined with the infusion of the necessary knowledge required to understand and apply camera technology. The third ingredient is how to find bid opportunities and how to market your company for such a venture.

Justification for public sector video

There are many reasons why cameras appear on the street. Police departments use them to monitor the flow of vehicular traffic and pedestrians. According to the Cleveland Law Library Weblog, there were 26,000 stoplight tickets issued in Cleveland between December 2005 and April 2006.

Police also use them to survey hot spots in public places, especially where crime is commonplace or known criminals operate. Although they can be and often are used for real-time surveillance, many times the recorded images from public cameras on the streets of a city are used to solve an unsolvable crime.

In May 2005, Patricia McDermott was murdered on a dark street in Philadelphia. There did not appear to be any way to determine the culprit, until someone noticed cameras on a nearby federal building. Less than two months later, Juan Covington was arrested and charged with her death. The arrest was possible in large part because of video taken from those cameras.

The low-light cameras on the exterior of the Philadelphia federal building were installed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Many times such cameras are installed using matching grant money from DHS as well as other sources.

Public sector leads and selling video

The process of breaking into the public sector video market begins with a firm commitment, a load of patience and a bunch of money. The result could be a well-established, prosperous business. One of the most important aspects of selling public works is finding bid opportunities, and the other involves the development of personal contacts within the public sector market.

“The close relationships we have with our contacts have evolved over a period of time. They know our organization and they like our work,” Heinemann said. “When a past client tells someone else about our good work, this is the best advertising you can have. In fact, this has had a large impact on our ability to close the sale.”

There also are contract services where you can obtain job leads. Such firms include McGraw Hill’s F.W. Dodge, Construction Jobs, Blue Book, and just about any Builders Exchange.

“I also do a lot of Internet searching and you’d be surprised at what you can find out there,” Heinemann said. “Using a lead service may net you 100 leads, but most of them won’t be the ones you want. I also spend a lot of time trying to do more with fewer jobs in order to get the larger ones.”

It is the distance between the two extremes that ECs need to know about. If one were to ask contractors that are successful in the public works market how they did it, they will often tell you that it is personal contact with the right people and a lot of hard work.

Heinemann’s firm, in business since 1972, specializes in large systems integration projects such as video surveillance systems at seaports, on city streets and other public areas. According to Heinemann, the company’s involvement in this market took many years to develop and required a big helping of education, a mountain of patience, and a boat load of time and money.

COLOMBO is a 33-year veteran in the security and life safety markets. He is director with FireNetOnline.com and a nationally recognized trade journalist in East Canton, Ohio. Reach him at abc@alcolombo.us.