Posts Tagged ‘Video Surveillance’

Video is Everywhere: Mind Your Manners in Public

Friday, February 24th, 2012

5610631522_53319bb4fe_o-1024x681 Video is Everywhere: Mind Your Manners in PublicI recently had a video forensic case that involved a dispute between an employer and a former employee. It was a disability case where the employee was collecting disability that they were not entitled to.

The employer’s insurance company hired a private investigator to follow the former employee and catch them on video doing activity that they claimed they could not do. During a deposition the former employee demonstrated how they had a very hard time getting up from a chair and walking across the room.

A few days before the deposition and a few days after the deposition the former employee was caught on video moving in ways they testified they could not during their deposition.

You would think that if a person is going to lie about how they are disabled they would be more careful in public to not act differently, especially with the risk of being caught on video.

We live in an extremely litigious society and many people are looking for an easy way out. An accident occurs at work and they leverage the accident to benefit their financial future. We have all seen the TV shows that catch these people spilling water on the floor then pretending to slip and fall in order to be able to file a law suit designed to compensate them so they have some financial security.

Then there are criminals, many of whom are addicted to drugs, who rob gas stations and convenience stores without considering that there may be video cameras and recorders on the property that can later identify them.

Regardless of your thought process when committing a crime or having fun in public, remember that you are more than likely almost always being recorded on camera. It’s worse to be caught in a lie on video than to be honest and live your life as intended. Money is the root of all evil and a powerful motivator.

I have seen it all after 28 years as a video forensic expert. Children being assaulted and abused, robberies and even murder all caught on video. I have testified in all types of cases that involve video evidence and the purpose of these videos is genuine. Video does not lie and eventually the truth does come out in litigation.

photo credit: big brother via photopin (license)

Video Aids Law Enforcement in UK

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

970702_13970894-1024x678 Video Aids Law Enforcement in UKMany cities across the globe are installing CCTV systems. Digital closed circuit television systems aid law enforcement by catching crimes on camera. Police in turn review that camera recording and seek out the criminals.

In the UK, riots are breaking out and what the instigators do not realize is that London is one of the most wired up cities on the planet. Similar to Denver, Colorado, London has closed circuit television cameras all over and has been recording many of the riots that have recently broke out.

The police then scan 30 images per second looking for the best on that shows that may be responsible for starting that particular riot. The image or picture is then posted on the Internet, broadcast on television and even placed in the newspapers. This is helping solve the riots and satisfy the citizens that something is being done to keep their streets safe.

Somewhere in London there is a huge computer that stores hundreds of thousands if not millions of gigabytes of digital video footage. Computer interface aids the investigators in discovering details about crimes committed on London streets.

Some say that here in the United States where CCTV systems are also being used are in violation of our constitutional rights. Rather than get sidetracked on our right to privacy, litigators use CCTV footage to solve crime not invade your privacy. Any time you are outside of your home, you may be recorded on video. There are cameras in shopping centers, gas stations, party stores, banks and even many homes.

As a video forensic expert, I am asked to review footage that was recorded on these CCTV systems and export frames from the video and create and clarify images, prove authenticity and help courts better understand the digital video recording process and use of video as evidence.

It’s rare but I have even experienced video evidence that was altered by someone who was trying to beat the system. Many people do get away with evidence tampering and forensic experts can aid with authenticating evidence so the litigators can move on with their process.

One of the biggest mistakes forensic experts make it making their reports and testimony too complicated for the courts to understand. CCTV systems are complicated machinery and computer systems. It is not necessary to over complicate reports and testimony but rather make their opinions available in practical down to earth easy to understand English (or whatever language you are speaking).

Simply put, the world is rapidly changing and technology has made a grand entrance into the court room. Forensic experts help litigators understand the relevancy of media and other technical evidence while keeping their opinions simple and easy to understand.

We are all adjusting to technology and learning how to accept this technology and its ability to help law enforcement keep our streets safe.

Article I helped with in Toronto Canada

Caught on Video: CCTV Surveillance

Friday, February 18th, 2011

3848994963_84d64b9f07_o-1024x768 Caught on Video: CCTV SurveillanceThe next time you walk down a city street, take a look around you and notice the number of video cameras and motion activation devices present that help control traffic, regulate complicated machinery and deter crime. They’re right there next to the street lights and traffic signals. Government buildings, police cars and even shopping malls use video surveillance equipment in many ways. This same equipment used to control and regulates traffic flow and machinery is known as CCTV video systems. One purpose is to regulate and another is to deter.

It is interesting that criminals have become aware of CCTV systems and consider the cameras when planning their strategy for a criminal activity.

CCTV is a visual assessment tool. Visual Assessment means having proper identifiable or descriptive information during or after an incident. These systems should not be used independently from other security measures. Identification goals to consider when implementing a CCTV system:

1. Personal Identification: ability of the viewer to personally identify something within the scene, beyond a shadow of a doubt. This does not reflect human identification, but rather, the ability to identify specific information or objects within an image.
Personal identification has two very important phases: The relationship of size and detail of an image, and the angle of view from which the scene is viewed. Without careful consideration of both aspects, your CCTV system merely records useless, unidentifiable images.

2. Action Identification: ability of the system to capture the events occurring in front of the camera as they actually happened. Because of the need for accuracy, using time-lapse video could cause problems. For example, if using a digital recorder or DVR, with a low image per second frame rate setting, some images may not be captured on the recorder. The lower frame rate setting is desired by many digital CCTV system users to reduce storage requirements of surveillance video on hard drives. The upside is with the cost of hard drive space becoming more economical, digital CCTV systems should be upgraded so the images per second feature can be increased and more surveillance video stored for review should it become necessary. On the Primeau Forensics YouTube page, there are video examples of this frame rate scenario:

Another problem in the analogue systems, when a Multiplexor switches between cameras for viewing different areas under security, an activity could occur at one of surveillance areas while that camera is off and another is on. Multiplexor’s are like video switchers: they periodically switch cameras to view by security personnel. The output of the multiplexor is most always recorded to a time lapse video tape recorder using ½ inch tape stock.

3. Scene Identification: ability for the scene to stand on its own merit. In a building with many similar hallways, equipped with surveillance cameras having similar angles of view, how can the hallways be differentiated when a CCTV monitor or tape is viewed? If an action is being recorded, how can each hallway be distinguished from the others? Scene identification is an important, but often overlooked, form of identification vital to effective video systems.

There’s no margin for error when it comes to public safety. Metropolitan police departments all across the country are doing their best to deter criminal activity. When it can’t be prevented, the agencies want to apprehend and help prosecute the perpetrators. With human resources stretched thin, video surveillance has become a critical tool in the war on crime; it puts thousands of extra “eyes” on the street 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Insight Video Net, LLC (IVN) has emerged as a leading provider of digital media software and services to capture and manage video, especially for the public safety market. IVN has developed software called the Central Management System, or CMS, to store, retain and manage the video that comes from “fixed” as well as “mobile” cameras. CMS makes sense of huge amounts of raw video and turns it into indisputable evidence admissible in court.

Cameras in public have become a way of life and we have grown to accept them and are use to them. In a city environment, a camera is connected to a closed circuit video television system hence the term (CCTV). This system has the ability to regulate the traffic by adjusting traffic signals according to traffic conditions.

In law enforcement, video recording systems are installed in most police cruisers and help bring accidents, drunk driving and other traffic stop situations into the court room. Video forensic experts help courts understand video evidence and video evidence admissibility.

From high tech tom low tech, CCTV systems come in many shapes and sizes and wired and wireless combinations. Two manufacturers of high tech systems are Pelco and IVC. Less complicated systems are manufactured by Fairfax Electronics and Safe Mart.

Pelco has one of the largest CCTV systems is in place in the Denver, Colorado. It is one of the most intricate and largest CCTV systems in place in a city today.

The Denver system manufactured by Pelco is comprised of hundreds of closed circuit cameras in dozens of municipal locations both indoor and outdoor and all connected to a very large computer that can be monitored in many different locations.

IVC also specializes in multi-site video networks with remote access to live and stored video and equipment activity.

CCTV systems play a major role in healthcare organizations and hospital operations. Medical practitioners rely on CCTV systems to critical care units under observation 24 hours a day seven days a week.

It is this author’s contention that:
1. Within five years, every major city across America will have a surveillance system similar to Denver’s in place as well as surveillance systems that will require Video Forensic Consultants involved in litigation to help courts understand the evidence being presented.

2. There are three primary drivers of video surveillance.
a. The ability to control access to areas that have restrictions, i.e., birth centers, emergency departments, pharmacies, surgical areas.
b. The ability to deter crime
c. The ability to record data and measure statistical information over a period of time.

3. General surveillance for after-the-fact (Forensic) investigations will continue to play a major role in litigation.

4. The ability to activity for security and non-security purposes will save institutions substantial amounts of money annually .

Through service agreements, a $2.5 million performance contract, and ongoing support, Johnson Controls has helped WJMC reduce operating costs, improve comfort conditions for patients and staff, enable facility personnel to be more efficient, and significantly reduce energy consumption. In mid-2007, WJMC became the first hospital in Louisiana to earn an ENERGY STAR® from the U.S. EPA. In addition, Johnson Controls has helped the hospital to improve ventilation, maximize the efficiency of a new central energy plant, manage utility bills effectively and continuously improve facility management practices.

In an interview between Pelco (A global leader in CCTV systems) and Tony W. York, CHPA, and CPP, Mr. York stated:

“Video security is a fabulous tool, when it is integrated with door and alarm controls, inventory tagging systems. Another thing that is really important is the retrieval of the captured video, which provides instant access for those after-the-fact investigations. I would call it revolutionary”.

Concerns over violent crime and civil liability lawsuits have caused schools, large corporations and small businesses to investigate avenues for securing their operations. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) systems are a popular security tool to combat such problems.

Computer graphics digitally placed on the monitor and video cannot be relied on to provide the sole method of scene identification. These graphics can aid in identifying one scene from another when both have a similar angle of view. Without being able to identify the scene on its own merit, it would be easy to argue that the graphics were added to the tape after the fact.

Preventing crime may be a goal but is not always the result of the billions of dollars worth of closed circuit television systems in use today. Often times the video footage retrieved from CCTV systems adds a degree of perplexity to due process.

Video surveillance evidence has the potential of lengthening a litigation proceeding beyond that same proceeding without video evidence.

It takes additional time and manpower in the legal system for clerical, administrative and legal to have a video forensic expert examine video evidence as well as the video expert. This evidence is either analogue (becoming extinct) or digital.

Motions have to be filed in court for an expert to be able to examine the evidence which adds time and expense to the case. Experts often have to travel to the evidence as law enforcement is often skeptical and reluctant to release video evidence in fear it may become damaged or lost in transit. Authorities must maintain a chain of custody with video forensic evidence the same way they would with any other forensic evidence.

This consideration adds time and cost to a case that has to be paid. Often times it is the court, public defenders office or another branch of government that absorbs these costs in criminal matters. Other times it’s the defense or plaintiff in a civil matter who will incur the costs of having forensic video evidence authenticated and admitted into the courtroom.

As a video forensic expert, I have testified in cases where analogue (VHS) as well as digital video evidence was used. Both require a different methodology for examination and authentication. Every case I have testified in is unique and each judge overseeing those cases has reacted differently to the video evidence presented.

Many courts do not understand video forensic technology which is why it is sometimes looked at as a junk science. However, In an April 12th, 2005 article, the New York Times reported “400 court cases dropped or acquitted because of VIDEO EVIDENCE contradicting POLICE LIES”.

The courts that accept video evidence supported by a video forensic expert are usually those that involve an experienced trial attorney. So when presenting video evidence today, analogue or digital, admissibility boils down to the arguments of admissibility given by the presenting attorney. When accepted, video evidence can help a jury understand a crime scene or situation more clearly.

Digital video evidence has a better chance of admissibility in court if the evidence follows a chain of custody protocol. Just like other evidence in a crime, law enforcement personnel are responsible for witnessing the exporting of the video evidence and delivering to evidence police lock up for examination by a qualified video forensic expert. Analogue tapes should also be picked up by law enforcement and taken to police lock up for future examination by a qualified video forensic personnel.

Often  each party in the litigation will hire their own video forensic expert. For example, in criminal cases, the police have crime labs that employ forensic video experts and the defense seek outside expert assistance. In Civil cases, each party will often seek a forensic expert depending on the position of each side with regard to the video evidence. One example would be authentication and another would be admissibility.

Closed circuit TV, crime scene recreation video and cruiser traffic stop footage as evidence has become an element in litigation virtually overnight. Law enforcement agencies and our legal system have come to accept video as evidence in the courtroom and have become accustom to video forensics as a legitimate science.

Unfortunately, those engaged in legal proceedings from time to time try to alter video evidence in their favor which is where the science of video forensics becomes a value to the legal proceeding.

There are two recording formats for Closed Circuit TV security systems CCTV:

1. Digital is video recorded onto a computer hard drive
2. Analogue is video recorded onto a magnetic tape

A CCTV system is a closed circuit television security system that employs cameras and either an analogue tape based recorder or digital computer or DVR-digital video recorder- based video recorder. Both record camera views onto their system and store them for later viewing, reviewing or in the case of a crime committed, identifying.

Multiple cameras can be installed at a large or small location and viewed as well as recorded simultaneously on either analogue or digital format. Analog incorporating multiplexers, digital incorporates software programs.

The more sophisticated systems like the ones Indianapolis manufacturer Pelco carries, and has in place in Denver, have many adjustments, settings, frame options and video export options as well as signal routing features. The lower end VHS systems are pretty straight forward and easy to operate but have less features and options. Both systems can incorporate point, tilt zoom or steady non moving cameras. The point tilt zoom cameras (PTZ) can move to follow action both automatically and manually. This activity can be operated by security personnel manually or through a technology of motion activation that detects the change in gray scale in the dedicated area. In the second situation of motion activation, the PTZ camera will be activated and follow the motion as it occurs.

Non moving cameras capture the area under security in a stationary fashion. The advantage to DVR’s is that the quality is far superior to analogue especially when images must be retrieved for identification purposes or crime scene recreation. Digital formats add compression to the CCTV video which decreases the size of the video files allowing more video to be stored in the DVR.

Some video evidence in cases where analogue video was used as evidence was recorded on time lapse VHS tape which has been recycled many times. The examination and authentication process requires a different process to authenticate than digital video. Only Hollywood can produce a high quality image from a worn out pixilated (give a definition) time lapse, low resolution analogue video tape of the suspected crime.

When you factor in how much money it could cost to recover from the crime, pay a forensic expert to try and recover an image, purchasing a digital CCTV system is a much better investment and will produce better forensic results.

Tape or analogue systems often fail to show useable evidence in a court of law. The main reason is because tapes are recycled over and over and even accidentally erased.

Once a crime has been committed and caught on a digital recording device (DVR), a back up digital video can immediately be made of the crime using digital video technology. This back up video often called “book marking” or an” Alarm File” which is immediately taken out of the normal refresh cue and stored in a safe area for further forensic examination.

When analogue video is entered as evidence, the court or police make copies for all parties involved in the litigation. Those copies experience generation loss, similar to making copies of a document on a copy machine. Additionally, when storing analogue video with repeated playing often has degradation to the original crispness of the image on the video tape especially if the tape has been recycled which is often the case. It is much more difficult and expensive to create an image from a 75 dots per inch analogue recycled tape than it is to create an image from a 300 dots per inch digital image. There is no comparison. The digital video proves time and time again a much clearer image.

Think about a crime free society using closed circuit television systems. These security systems reduce the potential for crime in your business, institution or community. There are bleeding edge closed circuit television systems that can increase security, reduce loss and prevent crime as well as control intricate machinery and just about other activity you can imagine. Closed Circuit Video Surveillance is once step closer to having a crime free society safely operating businesses, schools and institutions.


photo credit: IMG_1257 via photopin (license)

Video Forensic Expert Edward J Primeau Curriculum Vitae


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