Taking an intelligent approach to system design can often allow an end user to realise a better solution, often with capabilities beyond the sum of its parts. By applying technologies in a bespoke and specific way, the results can enable a more holistic approach to overall security and safety. When the City of Hartford created its crime centre, the capabilities of its system were fully leveraged.
Modern law enforcement often faces something of a dilemma. Constricting budgets can impact in the number of officers deployed to front-line duties which places a greater emphasis on the use of technology. However, the same budgetary constraints often mean that legacy technology cannot be upgraded. The result can be fewer officers relying on out-dated systems to try and remain effective.
Many police services end up using fairly restrictive and complex systems that can hinder rather than help in investigations. Huge amounts of captured data goes unprocessed because of the time and effort involved in analysing it. The ability for a police force to act dynamically is restricted because the systems implemented in the past cannot leverage current developments with regard to mobility, flexible communications and advanced processing capabilities.
The shame of this is that many technologies in the security market have advanced exponentially in the past few years and as such make the creation of dynamic real-time data gathering and analysis a simpler task. Today’s smart implementations can empower the police and other law enforcement authorities, as well as commercial and industrial organisations, to operate leaner but significantly more effective solutions.
Because of the modular approach taken by an increasing number of manufacturers, new and emerging system components can be added as and when required, which does mean that with a solid core for a system, functionality and smart benefits can be included as resources allow.
The Hartford approach
Sergeant Johnmichael O’Hare of the Hartford Police Department sees the benefits in being able to exploit technology and data to aid in police investigations. Before the creation of the Hartford crime centre he made use a car equipped with three different laptops to run various parts of the system. It also meant that he needed to have a data analyst with him to use the technology as they worked.
One of the biggest issues came in regard to drug and organised crimes. Often witnesses would not cooperate and the data was the only way to piece together events. Without it, cases simply could not be progressed.
When the decision was made to build the City of Hartford crime centre it was decided that at its heart would be an open platform VMS from Milestone Systems. This would enable the addition of third party devices along with a number of advanced integrations with analytics and other tools to enhance the overall performance. The core VMS is Milestone’s XProtect Corporate flagship product.
The Hartford Police Department’s crime and data intelligence centre includes a Smart Wall with thirty 55 inch 4K video monitors. Analysts can view video and other data feeds – such as information from the emergency 911 dispatch system, social media mining tools or traffic status reports – to monitor events.
The police department also makes extensive use of high quality cameras from Axis Communications. These are used for both permanent and temporary deployments. The latter approach works well for special events and the police have used trucks with cameras mounted on them to ensure coverage is complete.
In testament to the quality achieved from the Axis devices, a plan is being implemented to assist businesses and organisations in the city to deploy Axis-based solutions with captured video being shared with the Hartford Police Department.
One example of how the crime centre makes use of the additional benefits of integration with the VMS is the use of synopsis software from Briefcam. This can highlight all activity in a viewed scene over several hours and present that information in a short synopsis video clip. Each motion activity is presented with a visible time stamp. While the synopsis video includes a number of consecutive incidents in one scene, simply clicking on the relevant time stamp will display that specific video segment. Synopsis software, such as that offered by Briefcam or other vendors, can be a valuable search and recovery tool, but the Hartford Police Department have used it in a slightly different way as well.
Sergeant Johnmichael O’Hare explains that the department gathered video of a street scene to assess pedestrian traffic between a public transport hub and an area where the police suspected drug dealing was taking place. Synopsis software and flow analysis identified a lot of foot traffic between the transport hub and a residential block.
Filtering that further to look at specific doorways showed that one residence was receiving an abnormally high number of daily visitors, way beyond what would be expected in a normal situation.
This data processing could be carried out quickly and easily, and as a result it identified an address worthy of further investigation. Achieving that result without the technologies in question would have required a significant amount of surveillance man-hours and a modicum of luck.
Another benefit of video analysis that is used by the Hartford Police Department is heat mapping. One example is that a suspected drug dealer was believed to be operating outside a parade of shops. Video surveillance of the general scene was captured over a period of time. The police were then able to analyse the footage using heat mapping. By identifying the suspect and mapping his activity they spotted that whilst he spent a lot of time walking around the immediate area, there was one specific hotspot at the corner of a building next to a telegraph pole.
When an arrest was made, the officers were aware of the hotspot and a quick search there allowed them to quickly locate the stash of drugs, concealed behind a loosened brick.
Again, the smart application of a technology usually highlighted as a benefit to retailers allowed the police to quickly gather evidence that otherwise would have required a high level of time and resources.
The Hartford Police Department makes use of ShotSpotter, an audio-based analytics tool that identifies gun fire and plots its location. That information is then sent back to the VMS. By linking this tool with The Hawkeye Effect geospatial mapping tool, which integrates with XProtect Corporate, the system can then automatically trigger absolute positioning PTZ cameras using the captured X-Y coordinates to cover entry and egress roads and other significant points within the area of the detected gunshot.
The VMS integration with ShotSpotter and The Hawkeye Effect was a key requirement for the police department, which has expanded coverage of this part of the system to include every residential zone in the city limits.
By simply considering the scope of the technologies on offer and designing the system to meet specific briefs, the Hartford crime centre has created a solution that is both smart, flexible and cost-effective. It also enhances security in the city and enables more efficient policing.
Many of the elements being deployed are not specific to the law enforcement sector nor are they beyond the budgets of many businesses or organisations. What makes the solution exceptional is the way it has been designed to gain the maximum value from the various components. This illustrates that a truly smart solution can be created with the application of intelligent and well considered design and implementation.