sales director, IDIS Europe

Author Bio ▼

Jamie Barnfield brings with him nearly 20 years' sales experience in the security industry across IP-enabled video surveillance and security solutions as well as traditional CCTV systems. He has held sales management positions at The Solutions Group, March Networks, Silent Witness, and at Risco Group. Jamie joined IDIS in April 2013 and is responsible for value-add solution sales to support IDIS installers and integrators, as well as end-user sales from small businesses through to enterprise-sized organizations from a wide range of markets and environments.
October 16, 2014

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‘Crowdsourced’ Beating Investigation Exposes Limitations of Traditional Analogue Surveillance

philly hate crimeThe dissemination of video surveillance footage of a high profile assault has triggered a social media firestorm resulting in the arrest of three.

It’s also the latest argument for why the time for adoption of a HD standard for video surveillance is now.

Last month, when two men walking a Philadelphia street in the US were allegedly held down and beaten by a group of assailants, the crime attracted international attention.

The description of the victims – a group of well-dressed, middle-class 20-somethings – was surprising to many, and the nature of the crime – a public beating on the streets of America – was disconcerting both at home and abroad.

Fresh from a friend’s birthday dinner at a nearby restaurant the assailants were said to have committed robbery, hurled taunts of a sexual nature and put both victims to hospital, where one victim had their jaw wired shut and underwent facial reconstruction surgery.

Low image quality

As these, and other, details emerged, public anger grew along with pressure on the police department to identify the perpetrators.  Though detectives were able to quickly obtain surveillance footage of the group, the low-quality of the images on the security video left the police with little to go on.

Five days after the crime, the department posted the security footage to YouTube and tweeted the link to the world. Within hours, the social media universe, including an American reality TV star, assessed and shared details and photographs associated with the profiles of social media users “checking in” to nearby restaurants, identifying and grouping like characteristics, including matching items of clothing.

The amateur investigators quickly yielded results.

Soon, a high-quality photograph of the group (taken earlier in the evening) was located and posted to social media, and the Philadelphia police department, now armed with a clear image of the suspects, quickly identified members of the previously unrecognisable group, including a local high school basketball coach and daughter of an area police chief.

Within days, the suspects turned themselves in and arrests were made.   Three charged are currently awaiting trial.

The whole drama appeared to be a resounding victory for social media and, though Philadelphia police officer Joseph Murray tried to spin the matter on Twitter—tweeting that he’d “take a couple thousand Twitter detectives over any one real detective any day”—the incident was of very real concern for many who wondered why it took an army of reality TV stars and young people on iPhones to simply locate a clear enough image of the suspects to enable easy identification and arrest.

Indeed, there are inherent risks to turning aspects of official police investigations over to the social media universe.  Amateur detectives may be passionate, but lack the formal training in ethics and standards that professional investigators do.  The social media universe has also been known to jump the gun at times, making false or incorrect accusations of guilt or association.

While the ending to the Philadelphia beating story was a positive one, it is inarguably problematic that, in 2014, security footage is still regularly of insufficient quality to perform one of its most fundamental tasks: the identification of bad actors and facilitation of their arrest and prosecution.

Surveillance revolution

High-definition security and surveillance solutions are not new to the marketplace and the promise of the revolution in surveillance that the widespread adoption of modern HD solutions might bring, has been ever present in recent years.

Indeed, 2014 was expected to be a big year for HD surveillance, with IMS Research predicting in their 2010 report “The World Market for CCTV and Video Surveillance Equipment,” that 50% of all security camera shipped would be high-definition by this year.

IDIS has done its part to fulfil the promise of HD with this past June’s introduction at IFSEC 2014 of a new range of Direct IP™ 4k cameras–offering 30 images per second (ips) performance without visible network latency and image quality four times the resolution of full-HD—and full HD, purpose-built security monitors (including a 98” monitor), as have many others in the industry.

Today, offerings from security and surveillance manufacturers have made led to greater numbers of HD options, including cameras, NVRs, and monitors than ever before, many offering unprecedented levels of quality and performance.

And yet the surveillance paradox remains – with customers still hesitant to make the widespread and definitive move to high-definition and the overwhelming benefits—to safety, security, and protection of the bottom line – it has to offer.

Concerns about complexity, past false starts in the marketplace, and the ubiquitous presence of cheaper analogue solutions all contribute to hesitancy to adopt HD solutions and reap their benefits.

But incidents like the one in Philadelphia demonstrate how a reliance on outdated analogue solutions can result in critical lost time, risky public involvement in sensitive security matters, and even embarrassment for those charged with resolving a security matter.

In Philadelphia, an army of amateurs on social media and a media circus were required to do what the Philadelphia police, in possession of only low-resolution surveillance footage could not: produce a clear enough image of the suspects to enable quick identification and arrest.

Incidents such as these should be more than items of unusual interest in our newsfeed, they should be a wake-up to a complacent marketplace that the time for the widespread adoption of high definition, and the unparalleled benefit technologies such as 4K cameras can provide, is no longer “in the near future.”  HD has never been higher quality, higher performance, or more affordable.  The time for HD is now.

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SimonLambertConsultant
October 23, 2014 6:14 pm

Very interesting. I’m sure this will become a more common story. Can I be Mr Grumpy for a moment, please? Stop saying that 4K has four times the resolution of full HD. It doesn’t. It’s twice the resolution. Simple fact. But then, of course, that doesn’t sound as impressive when trying to sell it. Sorry, but it’s the truth. If you’re looking to claim that something is four times larger than full HD then talk about the volume of data you’ll need to record for 4K. That truly is four times more. The CCTV industry really needs to get a… Read more »