Hartford Capital City Command Center fast-tracks investigations and solves crimes using a comprehensive surveillance solution
- By Kevin Taylor
- Apr 01, 2019
Like many metropolitan cities, Hartford, CT has its
share of crimes. And solving those crimes usually
involves sifting through an overwhelming amount of
data. Despite the array of technology the Hartford
Police Department (HPD) had on hand, systems were
fragmented and not being used to their full potential. As a consequence,
officers on the scene sometimes received information too late
to act on it. It was time to modernize the department’s approach to
police work and integrate all their disparate systems into one cohesive
smart city solution.
Solving Crimes in Real-time
With help from Vulcan Security Technologies, a systems integrator
and Axis partner, HPD unveiled its real-time command center in
2016, gathering a wealth of data intelligence under one roof. Within
the walls of Hartford’s Capital City Command Center (C4) civilian
crime analysts catalog information from incident reports, raw intelligence
from beat officers and real-time video from a wide network
of city-owned Axis high-definition surveillance cameras as well as
private business and residential security cameras that feed into the
center. Analysts also compile information from license-plate readers
and a ShotSpotter system that triangulates the location of a shooting
based on the sound of gunfire. C4 staff even mines social media,
looking for inflammatory language on Facebook and Twitter in an
effort to head off threats to the community.
The smart city solution is built on a scalable, open standards platform
and controlled through Milestone XProtect Corporate video
management software. Because all the components are integrated,
analysts can pull up camera views, map overlays, analytics and other
crime fighting applications all within unified screen displays, which is
a big time saver.
Adding BriefCam video synopsis analytics to the technology mix
has elevated police work to another level.
“What used to take days of searching to find now takes minutes,”
said Lt. Johnmichael O’Hare, Hartford Police Department and a supervisor
at C4. “We’ve gone from fishing with a net to fishing with a spear.”
Finding a Needle in a Haystack
Because BriefCam can detect and extract objects within a frame of
video, along with information about the type, attributes and behavior
of those objects, C4 analysts are finding it invaluable when trying to
track specific individuals, vehicles, even animals. They can quickly
search through hours of video to locate and isolate something or
someone of interest by size or color, its speed or direction. They can
even map a car or person’s dwell time at a particular location.
“I can take 10 hours of video in a busy festival in a park and find
all the people wearing a certain colored shirt, isolate them out and
track them down in seconds,” O’Hare said.
As an example, when a call came into C4 about a pickpocket
wearing a green shirt, O’Hare’s team used BriefCam to locate all the
green shirts in the live video streaming from the scene. In seconds
they were able to isolate and follow the perpetrator and convey her
location to officers in the vicinity who quickly apprehended her.
Analysts used a similar technique to screen video from city bus
cameras and make two separate homicide arrests.
“In one case, we got the license plate off the get-away car, something
we couldn’t have captured before,” O’Hare said. “In the other,
we got the location of the suspect because he jumped on the bus. We
were able to scrub the video and find out where he was dropped off
and send officers to pick him up.”
Targeting Drug Busts
Sometimes knowing who the drug dealers are in the neighborhood
isn’t sufficient to make an arrest. You have to catch them in the act.
O’Hare sees the situation as a perfect opportunity to showcase what
BriefCam can do to help police make a bust.
“We use BriefCam to help us see patterns,” O’Hare said. “The software uses a combination of heat mapping and dwell time analysis, to
show us where a dealer hangs out most often, when he’s most active.”
What the analysis revealed in one investigation was a dealer pacing
his corner. As he was making sales he was pulling his drugs from
three separate stashes along his path—a tire, a hole in the wall and
behind a brick. With technology pointing the way to the evidence, officers
were able to make the bust and the recorded video helped make
the drug charges stick.
In another instance, HPD knew there was a drug house somewhere
in a neighborhood but was having difficulty pinning down the
address. C4 set up surveillance cameras and used BriefCam to track
foot traffic along the street. The heat map showed that in a 24-hour
period, 313 people went to one particular door. The next day the police
had a warrant to search the property and made arrests.
“This is the new way we’re doing things,” O’Hare said. “We’re doing
this on every street, house-by-house, block-by-block, neighborhood-
by-neighborhood. We’re accumulating data on crime migration
patterns and vehicular and pedestrian traffic that indicate drug markets
and going in for the arrest.”
Using Analytics to Boost
While O’Hare’s focus to date has been on solving crime, he is quick
to recognize the potential of analytics to help improve other areas
of city life.
“Analytics can help us recognize areas of the city that might benefit
from a little re-engineering,” O’Hare said.
Using analytics to track cyclist volume could be used to justify
bike lanes on certain city streets. Or tracking the frequency of jaywalking
near a particular school could be used to justify a crossguard
or a footbridge over a busy street.
Now that so many commercial businesses are linking their cameras
into C4, O’Hare would like to explore how HPD might share its intelligence
model with businesses to help them increase their revenue.
“For instance, if we can show a restaurant the pattern of foot traffic
past their property throughout the day, it might help them justify
extending their hours to make a lot more money,”
O’Hare said. “As police officers, it’s not only our
job to protect and serve, we want to help make
this city an inviting place to stay, work, play and
invest in local businesses.”
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Security Today.