The anatomy of a 'crime camera' system

From cameras to wireless video transmission for municipal surveillance projects


A "crime camera" is essentially an integrated system providing video surveillance tools for law enforcement. The components of such a system include the camera itself, backend hardware and software, monitors, capture and storage devices and ? most critical ? network connectivity to securely and intelligently transport sensitive video data.

When a crime camera is available in the vicinity on an incident, police personnel can accelerate their response by gaining situational awareness within seconds. Instant awareness also translates into better-allocated resources, making sure, as they say, that officers aren't caught bringing a knife to a gunfight. When the stakes are high, only evidence-grade video over highly reliable networks can assure authorities that they'll have the information they need when trouble comes. Evidence-grade video, roughly defined as high-resolution video, is tamper-proof, stands up in court, increases convictions, assists in identification and helps prevent future crime.

Crime camera technologies have come a long way. Slowly the days of "unknown trouble" and vague 911 dispatch call reports are disappearing. What are the components of a crime camera system? How does one get started?

Snapshot: The system as a whole

Although crime camera systems require video technologies that produce high enough resolution for evidence-grade video, the camera itself is just one component of a larger system. "The cameras are only as good as the network that connects them," says Mark Jules, president of Maryland-based Avrio Group, which develops integrated wireless surveillance systems.

Assuming that a camera is connected to a network, what becomes important is the infrastructure that manages the movement and transmission of the significant amount of data the cameras collect. Because of innovations in performance and cost reductions, video surveillance networks are increasingly turning to wireless technologies to both support and supplant existing wired networks.

Let's Think Wireless LLC, a New Jersey-based systems integrator, has been in the municipal video surveillance market for more than eight years. "In the past, if a city wanted to install an IP video camera network, it would typically pay a telco or cable provider for the use of a leased circuit -- provided the circuit was available in the desired location," says Craig Lerman, vice president and founder. "The costs ranged from $40 per month per camera for a cable modem, to a frame relay or shared T1 circuit (hundreds of dollars per month per camera). These public networks did not offer any quality of service mechanisms and the resulting video was of poor quality, with frequent outages on the network. Private fiber infrastructure, while providing excellent quality of transmission, is costly and time consuming to deploy. "

The advantages of wireless mesh

Wireless mesh network-supported crime camera systems are rapidly becoming the go-to option for law enforcement. They offer key benefits lifting its advantages over its complexities.

Not long ago, the demands of video required law enforcement agencies to use wires or costly microwave simply because they provided the necessary data throughput. Now, however, wireless network technologies can rival the results of wired networks. Los-Gatos, California-based Firetide, a developer of wireless mesh networking solutions, routinely delivers quality of wired Ethernet networks. Moreover, the flexibility, cost savings and other advantages alone are enough to justify exploring wireless mesh as a crime camera infrastructure, immediately. It certainly beats digging.

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