CCTV is a useful source of evidence and intelligence for ‘volume’ or ‘petty crime’ incidents. However, there are lots of challenges associated with it.

We spoke to dozens of CCTV/Imaging departments about CCTV usage in petty crime cases and decided to conduct a short survey to uncover key trends. The results will not surprise a lot of you working in forensic video analysis but we did get some interesting insights.

We have explored some key results below:

  • Average length of video clip is 5-30 minutes (according to 60% of respondents)
  • It makes sense that video clips are short in petty crime cases. The video is normally only taken from the scene of the crime (if present) and generally the time of the incident is known. Indeed watching vast quantities of video is not the big problem here; but as noted in the survey one of the most time-consuming challenges for officers in volume crime is dealing with the various different formats, getting them into a viewable format so they can be shared quickly with colleagues whilst ensuring the chain of evidence.

  • Converting video to a viewable format takes the most time
  • The survey results show that on average, 40% of the work day in the CCTV imaging department is spent on getting video into a viewable format. This outweighing other tasks such as making evidential copies and creating court reports. A close second was the task of enhancing or clarifying video images which highlights another problem that the quality of video is typically a source of frustration.

  • The greatest challenge identified was workload, closely followed by getting video into a viewable format (surprise surprise!)
  • Not only is this a time consuming task but virtually impossible if you don’t have the player for the video file (that magic piece of software that allows you to open and play files). At Kinesense, we spend a lot of time responding to requests for player for video formats. Luckily, international law enforcement agencies regularly give us copies of players so that we can store these. Our Vid-ID tool then allows users to search for potential players for a file. If you have not checked it out before: www.vid-id.com. We are happy to provide a player to an agency as required. Just ask!

  • Most police forces use 150 formats or fewer (72.5% of respondents)
  • As a previous article written by Kinesens’s CTO (the CCTV file Format Minefield) points out there are over 3000+ video file formats out there. A lot of which require proprietary players to open and view the video. However, most respondents have a collection of less than 150 players. How many formats an agency has to deal with depends of what DVRs are installed in their area. Some of the comments in the survey highlighted that mapping CCTV and formats is/would be a useful. With the onset of mapping solutions this has become much easier. One of the things that forces regularly note with mapping CCTV is that it is hard to keep it up to date. However, the map can be continually and automatically if you connect the mapping solution to a video investigation platform. The map can be updated by the evidential information entered automatically.

    Furthermore, a centralised list of players can be linked to the mapping solution which can ensure video playing. A centrally stored library of players can mean all users have access to all player data and can launch any 3rd party player. We ‘virtualize’ players to make them work correctly – but that is an entire topic in itself.

    If the respondents got the job of setting a national CCTV investigation strategy (apart from ‘panic’, as one respondent put it) here are some of the things that they would do:

    Enforce a standard video file format for DVR manufactures
    • Get insurance companies involved in enforcing standard file formats
    • Create an international portal for new file formats and player software
    Map CCTV and provide for direct link access to video
    • Mandate training hours for officers & devise a standardized training program
    • Invest in viewing facilities for officers and courts
    • Enable officers to view and convert video locally and have more complex tasks completed by specialists
    Eliminate DVD creation
    • Standardize presentation formats for court purposes
    Create a working group to highlight good and bad practices in dealing with CCTV
    • Promote Best Evidence video

    One respondent said that they would provide police stations with ‘kiosk-style’ facilities to view /convert their own footage and have more complex tasks completed by AV specialists. Have you heard of our DECK Digital Evidence Check-In Kiosk Product?

    Full survey results are available. Contact us to see the full survey.