See our recent published article in Policing Insight. If you are interested in learning more about how to make video investigations more effective and efficient in a greater digital asset context, ask us about booking into our of our CCTV workshops.

Film review: Why forces need a video evidence strategy

Smarter Video Investigations

Five key considerations

Video evidence is a key area where police agencies can make significant changes by introducing smart technologies to deliver effective crime prevention, detection and prosecution. Video evidence is used every day in major crime investigations, surveillance operations, and to prosecute and convict criminals in petty crime situations. In the UK it is estimated that CCTV is used in over 75% of major investigations and in over 64% of all cases. CCTV is an increasingly valuable source of evidence but the time and effort required to retrieve, view, analyse and report on video footage as evidence, can be a huge drain on resources.

Four reasons your CCTV evidence costs more than it needs to:

  • Trying to get different formats into a viewable format
  • Transferring and sharing video across the organization
  • Manually searching and sifting through footage to find key events
  • Preparing intelligence, court, and disclosure reports

Using a robust video evidence management strategy can help overcome the issues with video evidence, save up to 95% of back office reviewing time and ensure collaborative working whilst maintaining the chain of evidence. The result is solving more crimes and convicting criminals quickly with fewer resources. But what are your options to improve efficiency and effectiveness? Like all things in life, you can go big or small and there is always a balance between cost and reward. Let’s look at some of the key factors to consider.

 Where is your video coming from?

There has been an increase in the diversity of video sources in recent years. Police must now deal with CCTV, interview recordings, covert recordings, in-car video and body worn video.  Each of these sources has their own issues and working practices around them. CCTV is however different from the other potential sources of video. Firstly, it is typically a third-party source normally collected from shops, petrol stations etc. So, the first problem police have is accessing and retrieving it. To further complicate issue, there are literally thousands of different formats. So even when you have video, you often can’t watch it.  A good starting point is to review where your video sources come from and if video formats are an issue for your organisation.

 How much video are you dealing with?

Frequently video is stored on hard drives and other media across an organisation and therefore it is difficult to determine how much video you must deal with. It helps if you break it down by investigation type. Video collected from volume crime is typically only from one or two cameras and rarely exceed a few hours in duration. Whereas, hundreds or thousands of hours can be collected for a major or serious crime investigation. A review of the number of cases in your force will help. As a very rough estimate, 60% of volume crime cases will involve on average two hours of video. For major investigations, 80% of cases will involve 750 hours and a one week surveillance operation will generate 300 hours of video.

 How is video used across the organization for different types of investigations?

Apart from the volume of video, different working processes and people will be involved in a video investigation. For volume crime, most forces want frontline officers to be able to quickly open a video, review it and select the key clip. Long lead times lead to missing the boat in eliciting guilty pleas or delays in charge decisions by not having video for review. The focus for volume crime is in making sure the video is accessible from a format and distribution perspective. Solutions to transcode video in an evidentially secure way and accessible storage need to be considered.

In a major investigation such as murders, kidnappings, robberies etc, video is used to verify witness, suspect and victim movements over extensive time periods. The complexity and volume of data means that extra staff will often be drafted in to review and create extensive viewing logs for video. No longer does someone have to sit down and watch endless hours of video making notes in an Excel sheet. Video investigation software solutions encompassing video analytics technology can be used. Solutions that offer simultaneous user case review should also be considered for major event investigations.

What are your reporting requirements?

Video is used for a variety of reports including intelligence and evidential reporting. Any report, even team briefing can take time to prepare. Evidence needs to be annotated, redacted and storyboarded. In a lot of organisations this is currently done manually or a specialist team, who are typically overburdened, does the work. Video investigation platforms now contain an array of easy to use tools so that when someone is reviewing video they can tag events of interest and storyboard evidential material.

Furthermore, it’s important to think about automatic audit logging for disclosure purposes so that at the end of an investigation, you can simply print rather than manually compile the report.

 Do you need to adhere to ISO 17025?

 In the United Kingdom, it is expected that practitioners carrying out the recovery, preservation, production and analysis of video material should be accredited to BS EN ISO/IEC17025:2005. The aim of the code is to ensure good working practices for video analysis focusing on how to disclose or ensure that the process will meet audit requirements or practices.

If processes and practices are not supported by technology there is room for error. Furthermore, the auditing and chain of evidence requirements are cumbersome if using an array of different tools and forms. It is important to think of how technology can support the video investigation process whilst providing audit capabilities.

Smart technologies deployed across organizations make actionable intelligence into part of an efficient path from camera to courtroom prosecution. Developing a video evidence strategy on a smart IT platform across an organization can help security organizations provide the services the public deserves. Start thinking about yours today.

Author: Sarah Doyle

Sarah Doyle is Managing Director and cofounder of Kinesense Ltd (www.kinesensevca.com), who specialize in video investigation solutions for police.  As Managing Director of Kinesense, she has extensive experience of managing video with international law enforcement agencies, helping them map out smarter video investigation processes.