Oliver Vellacott, CEO of IndigoVision, describes how IP video is addressing the surveillance needs of law enforcement and criminal justice systems.
The security issues facing law enforcement and criminal justice systems are many and complex. A sitewide surveillance system is therefore an essential tool to monitor prisoner and staff safety, record incidents, protect property, detect criminal activity, combat terrorism and provide evidence. Police stations and courts are difficult premises to monitor, mixing high security and public areas in the same building. Conversely, monitoring of urban areas and traffic enforcement creates a different set of problems. In all these environments it's important that different operators have access to the same surveillance images, no matter where they are located. This demands a flexible and truly distributed surveillance system that delivers the very highest quality video.
Security Threats and Challenges
Law enforcement and criminal justice systems face a myriad of threats and challenges including:
Geography - Sites often cover large geographic areas, particularly for municipal monitoring
Environment - Buildings often include both high-security and public areas together
Terrorism - Police and court buildings are prime targets for terrorists
Evidence - Video evidence of criminal activity and police interviews needs to be very high quality and tamperproof to aid convictions
Safety - High profile events all too often seen in the media highlight the importance of safety for staff, prisoners and the public
IP video is the control and recording of live digital surveillance images over IP-based networks such as an IT LAN as found in most organizations. Transmitter/receiver modules, either standalone or built into network cameras, convert the camera signal into high quality MPEG-4 or H.264 format digital video for transmission over the network. Operators using workstations running security management software (SMS) can view live and recorded video from any camera. The best IP video systems are truly distributed, which allows any component (camera, SMS workstation or video recorder) to be located at any point on the IP-network. This makes the system flexible and scalable.
Video is recorded directly from the network using NVRs, which can be distributed around the network to minimize the bandwidth usage and create a fault tolerant solution by removing the single point of failure associated with analogue/DVR systems.
The SMS will also provide advanced video search and analysis tools, analytics, alarm handling features and site map overlays for easy identification of cameras and alarms. Some IP video manufacturers provide their SMS license-free within the cost of the hardware, allowing workstations to be deployed throughout a site for no additional cost.
Any analogue surveillance camera can be connected to the network using transmitter/receiver modules. Most manufactures also supply a range of network cameras that can be connected directly to the network and are available in a number of resolutions including HD. HD network cameras can be used on standard networks and storage, bringing the benefits of HD video to everyday surveillance applications. High-fidelity two-way, fully synchronized audio can also be transmitted and recorded alongside the video.
Police Stations, Detention Centers & Court Buildings
Monitoring buildings involved with law enforcement creates a challenging environment. Not only does surveillance have to monitor prisoner security and safety but also staff and public safety and building security, both interior and perimeter.
An IP video system can deliver the highest quality video at full frame rate and provide standard onboard analytics for real-time analysis of image content.
The SMS adds other dimensions to the surveillance operation by providing analytical search tools and features such as instant recall of recorded video. In addition, the distributed nature of IP video technology allows any component in the system to be located anywhere on the network. For example, in a police station surveillance workstations could be used by:
* Booking in Desk
* Custody Sergeant
* Senior Police Officers
* Interviewing Officers and Detectives
This gives the police and the courts the flexibility to integrate surveillance into their operations.
Many police departments are replacing uneconomic remote police stations with unmanned ‘safe rooms', which allow the public to contact the police from a safe and secure environment. An IP video solution can implement all the necessary two-way video and audio intercom facilities through the network. The compression technology available on IP video systems allows high quality video and audio to be transmitted over very long distances with minimal delay.
Remote Monitoring & Wide-area Surveillance
Law enforcement around the world has to monitor city centers and local communities as part of their operations. Whether this is to monitor criminal activity or manage traffic, remote monitoring creates a challenging environment for surveillance systems. IP video's flexible and scalable technology is suited to this type of application.
The solutions employ MPEG-4 and H.264 compression technology that allows DVD quality video to be transmitted across standard IP networks over large distances with minimal bandwidth requirements. This ensures latency is kept to a minimum, which allows PTZ cameras to be controlled from far away, and wireless networks to be deployed to overcome the cabling problems associated with wide-area applications.
IP video solutions have been deployed in a number of mobile applications including surveillance monitoring vans and command vehicles. Special robust, fault-tolerant NVRs with removable hard discs have been developed for mobile applications. This coupled with great compression, low storage requirements and easy wireless network implementation means that IP video is the ideal solution for mobile and rapid deployment surveillance applications.
In large remote monitoring applications it is common for many different law enforcement agencies to want access to surveillance video footage. However, the video each agency requires may be different, and certain cameras need to be viewed only by specific agencies. A typical application would be an airport where the following agencies and departments would require access to the surveillance system: police, immigration, customs, airport security, airport operations and baggage handling.
In order to manage this complex environment the SMS implements identity authentication management. The system manages all aspects of user accounts and access permissions and creates logs to ensure a secure audit trail is produced.
"Privacy zones" is a solution to the problem of implementing surveillance hidden zones without losing the video which may be needed for evidential purposes in the future. Traditionally, hidden zones have been crudely implemented by applying a permanent mask to the front of the camera. The privacy zones feature blocks out areas of video to avoid viewing data/images that are irrelevant or intrusive.
IP video solutions provide analytics features that run in real time in the camera and in the SMS for post-event analysis. Analytics can be used to detect movement or actions in a scene and then automatically generate alarms, warning the operator or triggering a system action such as start recording or pan a camera.
Analytics can include virtual tripwire, motion detection, abandoned object detection and tracking, congestion detection and counter flow. For example the 'Hooded Camera' analytics feature, which automatically alerts the system when a camera lens is obscured, is being used within many law enforcement applications.
IP video solutions can be integrated with other security systems such as access control and perimeter protection and can consolidate all alarms from these systems within the SMS.
High-Quality Video and Audio
The network cameras and transmitter/receiver units can transmit DVD quality video at 25/30 fps and hi-fi quality two-way audio with a guarantee that no frames will be dropped. The video and audio is fully synchronized, which makes it a platform for recording interviews and other evidential material. Watermarked and tamperproof evidential video/audio clips can be exported from the system, together with a standalone player for remote viewing.
In the event of an incident a senior operator can log into a SMS workstation with the appropriate permissions and lock down a specific camera or the entire surveillance system. The cameras can then only be viewed and controlled from that workstation.
Video Viewing Notification
A digital output from the network cameras and transmitter/receiver units can be triggered whenever the camera is being viewed or recorded. This can be used to drive a red light in an interview room to indicate the camera is operational.