From surveillance drones and wireless CCTV, to regulation, funding and the national CCTV strategy, the annual Global MSC Conference and Exhibition in Bristol had it covered.
Around 180 delegates were in attendance to hear these and other topics covered during a comprehensive day of presentations by 12 speakers:
- Catching more criminals caught on camera using enhanced CCTV techniques – Mick Neville, Detective Chief Inspector, Metropolitan Police VIIDO Unit
- Sachin Khanna, Product Portfolio Manager, Bosch US
- How unmanned aerial systems used by CAA licence pilots can be used for surveillance and crime fighting in the emergency services – Steve Shearn, Film & TV Aerial Cameraman
- Brian Jackson, Head of CCTV & Surveillance Sales, BT Redcare
- Lessons learnt from migrating over 100 town centre cameras in Hemel Hempstead, Tring, Berkhamstead from fibre optic to wireless transmission – Jim Guiton, CCTV Manager, Dacorum Borough Council
- Dave Edwards, Technical Director, FreeSpace Networks
- National CCTV strategy, where are we six years on? – Will Jordan, Chief Inspector, British Transport Police
- Wayne Palmer, Managing Director, Thinking Space
- Who should foot the bill for public space CCTV? – Nick Gargan, Chief Constable, Avon & Somerset Constabulary
- CCTV and the Investigator: lessons from the riots – Pat Morgan, CCTV Investigator, Metropolitan Police
- The challenges of securing a busy international airport. Law enforcement helicopter surveillance and the latest technology in the skies – Chris Ware, Head of Security, Bristol Airport & Former Head of Police, Helicopter Support Unit
- Surveillance camera code of practice, role of the Commissioner and early steps Andrew Rennison, Forensic Science Regulator, and Surveillance Camera Commissioner
One of the speakers was DCI Mick Neville who kicked off the day with his crowd-pleasing presentation on the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (VIIDO) of the Metropolitan Police Service.
Neville was one of the first police officers to recognise that CCTV would be far more effective if there was a systematic method for identifying the people who were caught on camera while committing a crime. He found that too often the images were downloaded from CCTV systems and then filed away to be forgotten.
VIIDOs have become increasingly important, to the point where they helped identify around 3000 people in London who were involved in the 2011 riots. Following that success, it was decided that VIIDOs would be rolled out across London, to process CCTV evidence in a systematic and efficient manner and pass that information to a central unit at New Scotland Yard.
Processing CCTV images is a time-consuming business but Neville says his department, the Met Circulation Unit, has made great use of volunteers who come into New Scotland Yard and help analyse and process thousands of images of suspects who have been caught on camera. It saves the police around £2 million a year, he said, and the quality of the material they produce is excellent.
The MetCU have pioneered a computer system called the FILM database which helps to manage CCTV images from acquisition to court, including the production of caught on camera posters of suspects, a key tool in the identification of criminals.
Neville has also pioneered the use of “super recognisers”, people who have an uncanny ability to memorise faces and recall this information sometimes years later. Around one per cent of the population have this skill, and if a super recogniser works in a prison or police station where they see many criminals, they are ideal candidates to help the MetCU make identifications.
Despite the labour involved in processing and identifying the images, Neville says that CCTV has proven to be the most cost effective forensic tool available to the police, costing around one-eighth of the price of fingerprint and DNA analysis.
And another speaker was Steve Shearn, a specialist in aerial photography and a licensed flyer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The organisers invited him to talk about the capabilities and potential uses of UAVs – sometimes referred to as drones – for video surveillance.
Drone technology has come of age and models powered by batteries and capable of carrying payloads of up to 4kg are readily available at a variety of price points.
The smallest models cost less than £1000 with an HD camera. Drones have been used by law enforcement and emergency services in various countries, with Shearn highlighting one case in which the Canadian Mounted Police used a drone equipped with a thermal camera to find a man who had become lost in the wilderness. The fact that they were able to locate him within minutes of launching the drone underscores the power of this technology.
There are currently 7000 drones in the UK, most of which are owned by private hobbyists. While the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) requires licenses for commercial use of drones, this does not apply to amateur enthusiasts who are free to operate the vehicles provided they observe basic flight restrictions: keep the vehicle within 500m of the operator, operate at less than 400ft in height, and keep the vehicle in line of sight at all times. Also, it is not permissible to fly the drone over large crowds or in urban areas.
There are some indications that the CAA in partnership with its European counterparts will loosen the restrictions on drones which could open up a whole new branch of business for the surveillance camera industry.
While drones can be used for beneficial activities, they can also be deployed in a way which would harm others. Shearn pointed out that paparazzi could use drones to spy on celebrities.
More disturbing, a large drone, flying on autopilot, could deliver an explosive payload to a high profile target, an attack which would be very difficult to defend against using existing counter measures.
There were other speakers on the day and time permitting, we may report on their presentations in the near future.