Midnight Madness on the Metro
Mobile digital recording system helps authorities bring brutal attacker to justice
Savvy subway riders know the fundamentals of staying safe––avoid eye contact, don’t display flashy items and remain alert of those around you. But, even the most vigilant commuter can’t thwart an unprovoked, violent attack from a deranged person.
Dubbed the “subway hammer attack,” a five-minute long assault on a dozing man by a hammer-wielding attacker on the Philadelphia subway was captured in November 2008 by a GE Security MobileView IV digital camera installed inside the train. Thirtysix cameras were installed in 135 trains in early 2008 as part of a homeland security upgrade. The entire Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority subway fleet will be equipped with digital cameras in the coming years.
MobileView creates a feeling of security for passengers and employs features that facilitate ease of use for operators. Upon the start of a train, MobileView cameras automatically begin recording and documenting events. GPS tracking allows transit authorities to know exactly where a particular train is at any time. Through the use of a wireless LAN, recorded images and camera feeds can be viewed from a laptop up to three blocks away, through a docking station or via a central station.
The MobileView IV digital recording system provides monochrome or color recording of up to 120 pictures per second and a hard drive that holds up to 1,000 GB of storage, the equivalent of up to 30 days of high-quality surveillance video. The typical MobileView system consists of up to 12 cameras on board a vehicle, a DVR, a keypad, panic button/status lights, a docking station and a PC loaded with MobileView software. All equipment components are made from industrial-grade materials to meet stringent testing standards for vibration, temperature and shock.
Shortly after 12:15 a.m., video showed DeWayne Taylor, 20, and Thomas Scantling, 26, and his 5-year-old son, boarding the same train at the City Hall station. Taylor can be seen listening to his iPod and dozing in his seat while Scantling, a bearded, stocky, 5-foot-9-inch black man wearing a yellow shirt and black pants, and his young son are seen standing by the subway car doors. Scantling talks into his son’s ear, kisses him on the cheek and directs him to a seat.
Then, he reaches into a black-and-yellow backpack, pulls out a double-clawed hammer and wildly unleashes the attack on Taylor, repeatedly bashing his head and neck.
While Taylor tries to fend Scantling off, the subway doors open and Scantling drags Taylor onto the Fairmount Avenue platform. After an unsuccessful attempt to push him onto the tracks, Scantling and the boy leave together.
Police released the surveillance video to the public, and mere hours later, Scantling’s family members recognized him and his son and notified authorities.
With the right technology, grainy and blurry videos can be a thing of the past for law enforcement. The speed of identifying the assailant can be credited to the picturerich images captured by the MobileView system.
“The video image quality of the MobileView IV and GE Security’s Video Manager/Fleet Manager software made it simple for police to quickly locate the segment of video they needed to help identify the assailant,” said Paul Bentz, MobileView sales manager for GE Security.
Taylor was treated for non-life-threatening head and neck injuries at Temple University Hospital. He received staples and stitches and was discharged.
Scantling, who has a history of mental illness and a criminal history including rape, robbery, assault and narcotics violations, was arrested at a mental institution and has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated and simple assault, and other related charges.
The motive for the attack remains a mystery.
“GE Security’s advanced technology solutions are helping make the world a safer place by meeting today’s evolving real-world security needs head on,” said Dean Seavers, president and CEO of GE Security, in a press release. “MobileView is designed to help transit systems and other fleet vehicle operators reduce crime, address homeland security issues, limit liability and provide a safer experience for employees and customers.”
MobileView is deployed in some of the world’s busiest public transit systems including, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, Denver, Oakland, Calif., Albuquerque, N.M., Broward County, Fla., and Paris.
Today, GE Security’s MobileView technology is being used in more than 18,000 U.S. transit systems.
This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Security Today.