The Best First Response
Presenting a powerful weapon in counter terrorism
- By Matthew Naylor, Nicholas Dynon
- Sep 01, 2015
Surveillance has perhaps been the most significant legacy of 9/11.
The continuing threat posed by global terrorism has driven huge
amounts of government investment into electronic surveillance, as
well as both wide and targeted physical monitoring systems in our
cities. Digitized mobile camera surveillance in particular presents
a powerful weapon in counter terrorism and law enforcement, yet this emerging
technology remains relatively undiscovered.
The United Kingdom boasts the world’s most extensive CCTV coverage. It is
estimated that most individuals are seen by a camera an average of 340 times per
day and in Central London an individual will be on camera for about 95 percent of
the time. But compared to the UK, CCTV use in other jurisdictions is limited by a
range of fiscal, legislative and privacy constraints. Surveillance cameras cannot be
everywhere, and thus despite their ubiquity in modern streetscapes they lack the
type of panoptic ability decried by civil libertarians and idealized by Hollywood
films such as Enemy of the State.
Thus, even if a camera is effective in identifying crime within its own field of
view, in all likelihood it has achieved this merely by shifting the crime to a location
beyond the width of its lens.
According to the Queen’s University Surveillance Studies Centre, the likely
consequence of camera surveillance is that “crime and undesirable conduct are
displaced into neighboring areas once cameras are installed in a target location.”
The center cited a San Francisco study, which found violent crime decreased within
250 yards of ‘open-street’ surveillance cameras, but increased beyond 250 yards.
Crime, like water, finds the gaps and exploits them.
Filling those gaps is critical, and the introduction and use of new mobile camera
technology has been heralded as the solution.
Mobile and Body Worn Cameras
Mobile and body worn cameras have been traditionally used for the same purposes
as static CCTV: deterrence and evidence. But it has been issues around use of
force, such the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson,
and the need to protect both police and civilians that have intensified calls for
police to be wearing Body Worn Vest Technology (BWV). It has been recognized
that the behavior of both parties changes when a BWV system is involved.
The first empirical study on the use of body cameras by police was released
last December by researchers at Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology.
The results from this twelve month study of California’s Rialto Police Department
indicate a 59 percent drop in use-of-force by officers wearing BWV and an 87 percent
drop in complaints against officers. These findings are consistent with those
of similar studies.
And quite simply, if police and security personnel were not recording their actions
in responding to an incident, then an onlooker with a smart phone/device
would undoubtedly be recording their actions. According to the U.S. Office of
Community Oriented Policing Services, “given that police now operate in a world
in which anyone with a phone camera can record video footage of a police encounter,
body-worn cameras help police departments ensure events are also captured
from an officer’s perspective.”
Echoing international trends, all Australian state jurisdictions have now run
trials of body cameras, but the approach has been one of caution.
“Whether we decide to roll [body worn cameras] out more widely across the
organization is not a decision we are going to rush,” said Inspector Ian Geddes of
Victoria Police via email interview. “Further work is needed to help us to consider
the next steps,” he st\aid, “including considering the outcomes of other body worn
camera trials happening across Australia and the world, as well as the ongoing
considerations around evolving technology and data storage needs.”
Indeed, it is the evolving technology that is making law enforcement and security
procurement of body worn cameras increasingly complex. While many organizations
have trialed and implemented solutions based on transparency, evidentiary
and behavioral benefits, emerging second-generation technologies are enabling
cameras to do much, much more. The major consideration is now around whether
to invest in cameras that can also provide live video feeds, immediate remote response
and intelligent analytics aimed at early warning and intervention.
Gaps in First Response
Traditional static CCTV and remote monitoring systems have been limited in providing
first responders with real time information when responding to suspicious
and or intercepting crime in progress. The majority of video surveillance systems
are reactive in nature, in that they record the pictures delivered by video cameras
on streets, which are later analyzed for evidence or explaining crimes and other
incidences. CCTV has been very effective, for example, in the hunt for Boston
Marathon bombing suspects, but was of no value in preventing the incident.
Even when remote monitoring systems send alarms in real time to security
monitoring centers, they are often poor in quality and require the attendance of a
security response vehicle to investigate. According to Luke Percy-Dove of Matryx
Consulting, “A very high percentage (95 percent) of all alarm traffic is associated
with false alarms, meaning most alarm attendances are a waste of time too.” Typically Police will not attend an alarm event unless it
can be validated or the premises carries a high level of
priority. “And remember, if 95 percent of all alarm
events are false, why would they?”
Digital, or ‘second generation’ technology incorporating
video analytics can turn existing technology
into a proactive system. This allows alarm-receiving
centers to make decisions with real time information,
in many cases removing the need for security officer
call-out. This results in a significant reduction in
costs and false alarms, leading to improved security
and proactive responses to situations as they occur.
Once a first responder is deployed to an incident
site, however, they still depend on radios to relay information
back to central monitoring stations. In most
jurisdictions this includes police, who are unlikely to
have anything other than radio with which to communicate
while on foot. According to Percy-Dove,
this means that whoever is in charge of coordinating
the response needs to rely on words to understand the
situation on the ground. “In this day and age and with
the technology available,” he states, “it’s crazy it still
happens this way but people don’t know better and
what is possible.”
Some first responders have the option of sending
images from a car or transmission hub to the control,
but this is limited by the necessity of being in close
proximity to the hub. “As we all know, when a police
officer is dealing with a situation they are not necessarily
near or anywhere close to a car or hub,” said
Aziz of safety and security solutions provider Xtralis.
“Also, these units will not be able to provide you with
GPS information for use with mapping software.”
Additionally, Percy-Dove notes, “some vehicles
are now been fitted with video capability, but as far
as I know these are recorded only in the vehicle and
are not yet broadcast back to the station.” In the case
of the Victoria Police, Supt Geddes concedes that not
all police vehicles are Mobile Data Network enabled.
First Responder Solutions
Body Worn Vest technology incorporating personal
live streaming technology (PLST) can provide the potential
answer to the real time intelligence deficit of
radio-only communications from first responder to
base. “I think it adds real value because at street level
you get to a whole different perspective of what has
happened,” said Percy-Dove, “… the key is always to
get the best possible information you can.” But it only
works if it is plugged into a system that can transmit
audio and video in real time to command and control
structures so that the intelligence can be analyzed and
operational decisions made.
Entering the marketplace are a number of innovative
solutions for early and reliable detection, remote
visual monitoring for immediate and effective
response. The City of London Police (CoLP), for
example, has recently commenced a trial of an Xtralis
solution that provides live transmissions from police
vehicles and BWV to better assess situations and
more efficiently deploy appropriate assistance.
According to Aziz, the Xtralis HeiTel body worn
solution has the ability to use multiple types of cameras
with the same unit. The recording unit is remote
from the camera, so if the camera is pulled off the
vest by a member of the public the recording remains
safe on the vest, thus protecting the evidence. It also
possesses a live streaming capability and GPS tracking.
Xtralis’ WCCTV Nano technology allows first
responders to live stream wirelessly via 3G/4G, LTE
and CDMA, as well as satellite, Wi-Fi and broadband
networks. Its software allows multiple vests to be
monitored at any given time, “giving the commanding
officer complete situational awareness.”
The HeiTel mobile technology is also used in other
mobile applications such as public transport, cash in
transit vehicles, and rental equipment and vehicles.
“In principle the car unit will do everything the BWV
will do but in addition it can have up to ten cameras
on the unit, connect to panic buttons, blue light engagement,
and audio systems to name a few,” Aziz
said. “In Europe Xtralis developed a self-contained
mobile early fire detection solution called Rapid-
Protector, which uses the HeiTel mobile technology combined with a compact area smoke
detector to create a temporary mobile
smoke detection solution for control
rooms and base stations. It can be
used during construction and upgrades
when conventional fire panels need to
be switched off.”
In Australia local councils, water
and electricity authorities are looking
towards mobile video-streaming technology
to protect assets and people in
areas where there is no traditional network
Water authorities are using the technology
for use in pump stations or near
dangerous drainage systems to proactively
prevent unauthorized access.
Used in combination with alarm sensors,
a central monitoring station can
be alerted when unauthorized persons
enter a protected area, and an audio
warning may be issued to the intruders
in order to remove the threat.
Rob Galic, sales director at Xtralis
said “Local councils are using the
technology for Health & Safety to protect
rangers who are driving in remote
areas, and for protection of parking
officers.” According to Galic, it’s also
being used by tow truck companies
whose drivers are often the target of
aggression by vehicle owners when
their cars are being towed from illegally
parked areas. “If the tow truck
driver is feeling threatened or is concerned
that their truck is at risk, they
can hit a panic button that will alert
a control center and stream live video
while recording the incident.”
Wayne Trethowan of Hills Industries,
said when the system is paired
with solar backup power units it provides
a remote solution for builders and
developers of broadacre estates who
require video protection of assets and
buildings before they become occupied.
Solutions such as these are making
traditional mobile CCTV look archaic,
and presenting law enforcement, public
transport and security procurement
departments with the choice between a
deterrence and evidentiary tool on the
one hand versus all that and a whole lot
more on the other.
In essence, it is a choice between a
tool that can record a criminal act and
a tool that can proactively prevent one.
Given the increasing political, social,
financial and human cost of crime and
the continuing specter of terrorism, the
latter option is difficult to ignore.
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Security Today.