Sunday, 26 October 2008


From CCTV to CSI, the search for elusive evidence goes on ...

Most people tend to think of the CCTV industry as a high tech business solely concerned with selling "state of the art" surveillance systems, almost guaranteed to catch crooks and increase public safety, as if by magic.

Whilst it's true that globally Closed Circuit Television, and specifically IP Video based surveillance is growing at a more than healthy rate, there are actually two specific areas which are destined for much greater attention in the years to come.

Somewhat paradoxically, Video Analytics and Forensic Surveillance usually occupy their places of merit,  at completely opposite ends of the CCTV spectrum. 

In recent years, there's been an increasing awareness that enhancing the use of surveillance within a 'digital' domain, is only likely to make quantum leaps in terms of efficiency on the back of rapid developments using powerful image analytic and target tracking systems. 

In time, they may not only replace much of the the routine input of a human operator, but will also increase their efficiency and capabilities by automating many aspects of the humble video monitoring and recording process.

Definitely a subject to be revisited in more detail very soon; but of more immediate interest, the role of the Forensic Video Analyst in extracting evidential images from video recordings that aspire to be appalling, is rapidly increasing in importance, particularly as the volume of CCTV 'product' being recovered post incident continues to increase at an exponential rate.

More cameras may well equal more recordings, but for the merry band of experts tasked with recovering usable images, perhaps the only absolute certainty for them is that when it comes to coping with an exploding workload, the demand for more highly skilled technicians will undoubtedly continue well into the foreseeable future. Which in itself creates a wealth of new employment challenges ...

The specialist role of a Forensic Video Analyst has really only existed for a relatively short period, and whilst organisations like the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA) have done much to develop this area of expertise, there are only a relatively few top "experts" working within the field.

One such highly respected member of this rather exclusive 'club' is Jim Hoerricks, the Senior Forensic Video Analyst (FVA) for the Los Angeles Police Department. Having authored his book "Forensic Photoshop" as a working bible for analysts keen to learn about the techniques and tricks used in enhancing video images, his latest development just launched is an online training course entitled "An introduction to Forensic Photoshop".

The course is available through the American Institute of Forensic Education, and will no doubt prove to be an invaluable step for any technicians setting out on a challenging career as an FVA.

Which is very opportune considering the slowly growing recognition here in the UK, that Forensic Surveillance may well in the not too distant future, eclipse the potential for both DNA and fingerprint analysis, in providing the vital edge in crime detection and case resolution.

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