Each year, throngs of Americans pack into arenas and other large venues to enjoy concerts, sporting matches and other events. As one might expect, big crowds and high profile media attention make these venues prime targets for terrorists and other criminals. While this example is easier for the everyday Americans to relate to, it represents only one of the many new threats that law enforcement and emergency response must contend with and plan for on a daily basis.
Indeed, a new paradigm of security has emerged in the years following the attacks of September 11, 2001 — law enforcement today does not have the resources necessary to scale up personnel to match the increase in security threats. Instead, the law enforcement community needs to rely on technological innovation to defend against a new breed of attacks.
Video surveillance is a force multiplier in maintaining security and providing real-time intelligence to organizations responsible for critical infrastructure protection whether it is government facilities, airports or any of the 18 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Additionally, municipalities, private companies and facilities such as prisons can benefit from coordinated monitoring, surveillance and information sharing where high-value personnel, data and missions reside. It is critical that threats are identified, located, categorized and responded to in a timely manner with the maximum amount of information sharing between the responsible organization, the responders, and local, state and federal authorities when required.
Making up ground
When law enforcement officials prepare for an emergency situation, they have two goals: detect an attack before it occurs, and respond to an attack in as close to real time as possible. The deployment of a robust, intelligent and flexible video surveillance management platform serves as a tool to advance both goals.
Law enforcement’s major challenge when planning to secure huge facilities like stadiums is the large amount of ground personnel must cover or have eyes on. Further, law enforcement personnel are bombarded with a massive amount of people and objects to monitor when scanning a crowd for potential threats. A system where security officers have to track video monitoring, audio surveillance, GPS monitoring, alarms and other sensors separately is not good enough. Security officers are human and as hard as they try, exhaustion from tracking multiple security systems can lead to human error.
Security officers also face an onslaught of data, which requires an integrated video intelligence system that aggregates information and assists security personnel with decision-making. The video intelligence system provides security personnel a common operating picture that ensures security teams responding to a threat are armed with the same, complete information. With information from the video intelligence system, security officers can feasibly keep watch over every corner of a facility without dispatching a physical presence.
Surveillance in a box
What does a modern video intelligence system include? The days are over when several video cameras placed throughout a facility can work independently of each other. Integrated video intelligence involves different sensor components providing and analyzing data which is accessed through a single portal and is an integrated component of the overall threat detection and response solution.
The sensor components range from cameras and audio surveillance to GPS monitoring, motion detectors, gunshot sound detection, to drone imagery. A modern video surveillance system includes both hardware and software working together, allowing for the cross correlation of sensor data that includes information from social media.
Terrorists and other criminal groups use social media to organize and plan attacks; as such, security personnel must monitor social media to avoid missing critical information that will not be displayed on a video monitor.
Integrated surveillance intelligence systems have become the eyes and ears for security officers protecting communities and facilities across the country. The system’s various sensors act as a behavior tracker to help law enforcement anticipate problems at varying types of facilities from military installations to public entertainment venues. Here’s an example:
Imagine there is a box of jewels, hundreds of years old, stored in a particular room at a museum. Using traditional video surveillance, security officers might pick out a man intently eyeing the jewels from behind the glass before moving onto the next item that catches their attention, and that’s where the story ends.
A fully integrated surveillance platform would follow the patron as he approaches the box of jewels, but it wouldn’t stop there.
When that video image is juxtaposed and cross correlated with data that was previously siloed — such as facial recognition software, GPS monitoring, thermal imaging and other sensors — we begin to see a much more complete picture of the crimein progress.
The complete integration of dozens of sensors into one surveillance repository allows security teams to cross check the records of paying customers in order to identify who the customer is and where they’ve been. Security officers can also quickly see if the potential thief wrote a post on social media referencing his plans to commit a criminal act.
Using this slew of data points and behavioral analysis, security officers can decide whether and in what way they should approach the customer in question, who, as it turns out, visited the museum 3 weeks prior, where he was caught not-so-discreetly measuring the box of jewels.
Safeguarding the public through prevention
Prevention of attacks is the most important job homeland security personnel have. With the ultimate goal of protecting the public, law enforcement is attempting to solve several security-based challenges that video surveillance intelligence systems can assist with. For example, a video surveillance platform brings automation to the tracking process of specific individuals. The result will be a more meticulous, speedy and efficient checkpoint system.
Law enforcement officials also look to prioritize the threat potential posed by different individuals in a crowd. With the help of surveillance intelligence systems, law enforcement can triage behaviors on a scale that can only be achieved through technical automation.
Back at our soon-to-be burglarized museum, a surveillance intelligence system’s video sensors alert security personnel that the man creeping around to the back of the box of jewels is more important than the child throwing a temper tantrum.
Surveillance through a single pane of glass
The ability to compile information in one portal also helps with the challenge of quickly sharing information among multiple agencies and decision makers. Multiple agencies, organizations and decision makers are tasked with coordinating responses topotential threats, and that requires that all parties involved in the decision-making are working with the same intelligence. A surveillance intelligence system allows all decision makers across agencies and organizations to access the intelligence simultaneously and without needing to increase the manpower spent to coordinate.
Many times law enforcement personnel know what behaviors they are looking for to determine whether an individual poses a threat. Still, there are times they do not. A Surveillance intelligence system can be customized over time to adapt to criminals changing behaviors and tactics. The integration of surveillance sensors allows for law enforcement officials to input new behaviors and patterns into multiple sensors simultaneously.
The world of homeland security has changed drastically over the last 15 years. Criminals and terrorists are not going to stop changing their tactics and law enforcement needs a surveillance intelligence system that allows them to not only keep-up, but also to adapt to future threats. To keep pace effectively, agencies should incorporate video intelligence platforms to automate threat identification and maximize communications and situational awareness across the organization, therefor ensuring the fastest and safest response to threats possible.
Kimbry McClure is the Solutions Architect, Office of the CTO at Hitachi Data Systems Federal Corporation.