Video Surveillance & Physical Security Industry Viewpoints
February 4th, 2020
Author: Tim Convery

Community Policing: How Homeowners Can Help Law Enforcement Accelerate Investigations

Leveraging Video Cameras Owned by Private Citizens and Businesses

Many municipalities across the globe have invested in video surveillance or CCTV camera networks for street and building monitoring; such cameras act as eyes on the scene and enable the collection of video evidence for investigations. In this way, the cameras augment the efforts of police and security staff and, with the limited budgets most police departments can access, the virtual eyes of video surveillance networks act as a force multiplier for law enforcement.

A New Tool for Community Policing

More and more business and homeowners are starting to install video surveillance cameras on their private properties, including IoT devices such as video doorbells. Given that a town, city or county could potentially have thousands of surveillance cameras, this presents an opportunity for local police departments to partner with those citizens who agree to share their video footage for facilitating investigations. With a plethora of options on the market, including Nest and Ring, the video doorbell industry also offers a powerful new tool for Community Policing, the strategy that encourages closer cooperation between police officers and members of their communities, to prevent crimes, accelerate investigations and foster collaboration with local law enforcement. These solutions are partnering with police and fire departments around the US, and boosting Community Policing efforts with apps and programs that foster police engagement with the local community and enable them to ask residents for help on active investigations. Participants can respond to requests for video recordings that can provide valuable evidence for an investigation – before any information or footage is shared, user consent is required.

The Neighbors Portal also gives police the ability to view an approximate map of camera locations in a given region; whereas citizen users have more restricted visibility and can only see cameras in their “neighborhood,” law enforcement users have access to view public posts from within their jurisdiction. For example, if there is a rash of car break-ins in a region, police can request that anyone with video to add the video to the public app or privately message the video to the department.

How Law Enforcement Can Use Private Video Footage

When permission is granted, private home or business video surveillance can be used in several ways, such as tracking and finding missing persons or identifying suspects. For example, footage can help police track down a suspect who abducted a child from a neighborhood sidewalk, which recently happened in Fort Worth, Texas. Similarly, if a hit and run accident occurs in front of a property owner’s home, home surveillance footage could provide the make and model of the offending vehicle, and maybe even a workable description of the driver.

As a result of this trend, the police departments that have partnered with vendors such as Ring have access to large video networks they do not have to maintain. However, one drawback of the proliferation of home cameras is that police departments can be inundated with too much video footage and not enough officers with time to manually comb through the footage.

Increased Efficiency with Video Content Analytics

Police can overcome this challenge with video content analytics technology, which processes video, identifies objects (such as people or vehicles) in the video footage, and classifies and indexes the video object metadata so that footage can be easily and quickly searched and analyzed. When the footage generated by a video surveillance camera network is processed by video content analytics software, police departments can scan hours—or even days—of footage in only minutes, and pinpoint objects and persons of interest by searching according to specific criteria. This filtered search functionality enables rapid and accurate video review so that police can gather key evidence, and make better and faster decisions to quickly locate, identify and apprehend persons of interest.

Home video cameras are an asset that can be extremely advantageous for police departments and the community at large to prevent crime and solve crimes. The trend of home property surveillance shows little sign of abating, in tandem with the rise of more public video surveillance cameras; this means that law enforcement agencies may soon be (if they aren’t already) inundated with more video footage and less time to sift through it manually. Video content analytics software will undoubtedly become a vital asset for police departments to fully leverage all available video evidence while streamlining investigation.

More on video analytics for law enforcement.

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