Enhancing public safety with real-time crime centers

reducing crime with video surveillance solutions

This article was originally posted on Federal News Network

By Liam Galin

It’s impossible to predict where and when crime will happen. And because police officers can’t be everywhere all at once, recent leaps in intelligence technology have provided new resources that empower law enforcement agencies to respond faster and, in some cases, prevent crime altogether.

Law enforcement, in addition to government agencies, businesses, utility companies and even private residences, have long used video camera surveillance systems to enhance safety and security efforts. More recently, video content analytics (VCA) software — complementary and intelligent video technology driven by artificial intelligence and deep learning — has enabled people, companies and communities to gain more context, faster and with fewer human resources committed to the task than ever before.

VCA is the beating heart of law enforcement units that represent a new, but growing, trend across the country: real-time crime centers (RTCC). These centers utilize VCA technology to process video from proprietary and approved video content, identify objects in video, and index those objects for easy and rapid analysis by human officers or operators. Just as law enforcement and security officers can’t be everywhere at one time, they can’t effectively continuously monitor surveillance feeds or cull through hours of footage without mistakes or bias. Video analytics coupled with other smart technologies utilized by RTCCs not only speed the review process but drastically reduce the manpower needed for the job.

Empowered by intelligent VCA technology, real-time crime centers can attain comprehensive situational awareness across a city or region. By setting up notification alerts that trigger based on predefined rules, activity or behavior, real time crime centers can quickly and easily flag officers when criminal or irregular behaviors are detected. These notifications empower law enforcement to respond to events in real-time, as the incident unfolds, and increase the likelihood of swift resolution. Furthermore, preventative and real-time response is always preferable to responding after the fact, and represents the best opportunity for law enforcement to preventatively reduce instances of crime in their communities.

Video content analytics lead to rapid responses

If we recognize and accept that law enforcement needs support in preventing crime, then we need to empower them with rapid response capabilities. The sooner police and security officers arrive on a scene, the more likely they are to ensure the safety of the community and carry out justice.

According to the Justice Department, multiple studies suggest that if police are able to respond to a call involving a crime within five minutes, the probability of an arrest is 60%. If the response time exceeds five minutes, the chances of a successful arrest drops to about 20%. These figures assume that law enforcement was immediately notified of the crime. However, with a median delay of 10 minutes for citizen reporting, we can already assume that these numbers are skewed. Furthermore, 70-80% of calls answered by law enforcement are neither criminal in nature nor even directly related to law enforcement.

Time is obviously critical in closing cases, but this information also reminds us of the limitations placed on law enforcement based on factors like crime reporting times. In all cases, video content analytics and real-time crime centers have the potential to significantly improve outcomes.

“The technologies available allow law enforcement agencies and officers to respond to crime events more efficiently, more deliberately, with improved operational intelligence and with a proactive emphasis on officer, citizen and community safety,” DoJ said, in a document outlining the mission of real-time crime centers. “However, the increasingly vast amount of data, information and intelligence can be difficult to manage. Agencies may struggle with filtering out what is immediately important versus what can be useful later.”

Thankfully, advances in technology have led to improved VCA systems which yield fewer false positives and deliver more dynamic reporting. Modern real-time crime centers are equipped with the intelligence tools needed to transform raw, unstructured video into searchable, actionable, quantifiable data and reduce time to target for law enforcement. Leading VCA also allows agencies to review more video material with less manpower, helping further reduce response times by freeing up officers to interact with the public and address problems that require human solutions.

How real-time alerts improve community safety

Law enforcement and security agencies have the benefit of decades of collective knowledge regarding patterns of criminal activity. Real-time crime centers can leverage this knowledge by using video content analytics to set rule-based alerts, based on the gathered data, to enhance real-time situational awareness in hotspots that are prone to criminal activity. By identifying criminal activities and other triggers that may indicate the likelihood of a crime, real-time crime centers can configure VCA systems to send alerts to dispatch field officers to the area, ultimately reducing response times and possibly thwarting crime before it happens. These alerts can be configured with a number of video analytics features, including:

  • Geolocation: Law enforcement can quickly and easily identify the specific location of an object within video content — both in real-time and post event — and track these objects across cameras, by layering camera geolocation data on top of video analytics search & filter capabilities. Selecting an object in the video, the operator can access and quickly search the video feeds and recorded footage relevant to the specific time, coordinates and radius. This speed processing capability saves critical time in locating people, vehicles and more, and is ideal for real-time situations.
  • Appearance similarity: This alert can be configured to identify objects by certain characteristics — a red duffel bag, a white hat, etc. — and help a surveillance team quickly filter through video to find objects that meet certain criteria. This can save officers critical moments in a missing person or abduction case, for instance.
  • Dwelling: This alert can flag law enforcement or security personnel in the event of a prolonged presence or unusual gathering in a sensitive area, such as in front of a high-value jewelry store or inside a park after hours. Notified officials can then monitor the situation and even proactively send officers before theft, vandalism or another potential crime takes place.

With the latest video content analytics systems and the cooperation of communities and businesses, real-time crime centers can mitigate loss, damage and crime, but most importantly RTCCs can help keep both their communities and responding officers safer.