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Panoramic Surveillance Captures Fine Detail in Crime Lab

April 1, 2016

As valuable evidence is collected and catalogued by police in Greenwood Village, Colorado, video surveillance ensures safety and accountability in the police department’s crime lab.


Introduction

A general upgrade to the Greenwood Village Police Department’s crime lab provided the opportunity to complete a surveillance system overhaul as well. Most “civilians” might not suspect that a police department building would require added surveillance. Considering, however, the amount of forensic evidence stored inside this particular facility, as well as the kinds of evidence­­ – firearms, narcotics, recovered cash, etc. – it’s easy to understand the critical need to establish security on the premises.  


Protecting evidence from external threats is the primary goal. On the flipside of that, general employee accountability, monitoring departmental procedure, and thorough record-keeping generated a need for a total surveillance update. And compared to the original CCTV system in the crime lab, which offered only live viewing, it was a radical update indeed. 


Requirements: Expanded Coverage with Added Intelligence

The crime lab needed to expand their surveillance reach over the facility, as well as add some new, more sophisticated equipment to increase the use and intelligence of the CCTV system. Previously, security video had never been recorded at the facility. Furthermore, none of the exterior areas had been monitored, so outdoor cameras would be a much needed addition. 


“We had a system before but it was very archaic and outdated. There was no dimension to it; no recording capability except for live viewing by the dispatch center. It couldn’t detect motion and was in limited areas, where crime lab property and evidence is housed,” remarked Commander Joe Gutsgell, division commander of the Greenwood Village Police Department’s Investigations Unit. “We wanted to move away from this one-dimensional system to one that allows viewing of the building exterior as well as inside our vehicle processing bay and evidence room.” 


Safe Systems Inc. in Louisville, Colorado, provided their technical expertise when recommending upgrades for and installing the crime lab’s video surveillance system. They chose Hikvision products for this application, based on their experience of reliable performance, excellent customer support, and a cost-effective product line-up. The primary goals for the installation involved integrating Video Content Analysis (VCA) into the critical areas of the crime lab and building the accountability they needed, while creating new security capabilities as well.



Solution: Deterring Crime at the Crime Lab

Safe Systems selected Hikvision’s 6 MP fisheye camera (DS-2CD6362-IV) for broad yet precise coverage of the evidence room. The fisheye is designed to capture images from every corner of a particular location and eliminate blind spots. High-resolution images up to 3072×2048 at 30 frames per second allow the Greenwood Village police a comprehensive view in real time. Infrared up to 50 feet allows for visibility in low- or even zero-light conditions. 


The most notable features of the fisheye camera are its viewing modes – 360° or 180° panoramic views – perfect when comprehensive coverage is needed. Next are its dewarped views. This feature re-orients the rounded fisheye-lens perspective, making video appear much more lifelike. Finally, a smooth “ePTZ” function lets lab workers easily pan, tilt, or zoom on any door, confiscated property, or personnel in the corridor. The “e” in ePTZ stands for “electronic” – the image captured by the camera appears to pan, tilt, and zoom, but the camera doesn’t actually move. The movement happens “electronically,” or digitally, at the client. 


The fisheye camera is a helpful, cost-effective solution for small, indoor spaces like this one. One camera takes on the job of what required three or more fixed cameras in the past.


“We’re taking advantage of the 360° fisheye to look at three doors simultaneously: the exterior door, an interior door to another part of the office, and the evidence room,” explained Mark Overland, senior safety and life security consultant of Safe Systems Inc. 


In the room where highly sensitive property confiscated by police is stored, such as guns, illegal drugs, and cash, Hikvision’s 1.3 MP mini dome camera (DS-2CD2512F-IS-2.8MM) stands guard. A second mini dome camera is also being used in the vehicle processing room, where Cdr. Gutsgell’s team collects evidence from vehicles involved in investigations – evidence like finger prints, blood and other bodily fluids, hair, clothing fibers, narcotics, cash, beverage containers, weapons, bullet holes, accident damage, tire treads, and more, anything they can use to track down and prosecute criminals. Recorded video of this room also provides forensic accountability for the department’s procedural integrity – a critical ingredient to this installation.


The two 3-megapixel cameras (DS-2CD2132-I-4MM) installed at the northwest and northeast exterior corners are vandal-proof with IK10 protection, and an IP66  rating to boot. These cameras capture personnel and vehicles entering and leaving the lab at any hour, day or night. They provide over 100 feet of IR range and are equipped to operate at temperatures well below zero for any surprisingly chilly Colorado winter. Digital WDR prevents images from blurring or becoming otherwise obscured in harsh sunlight or high-contrast conditions. 


The new system also incorporates Hikvision’s professional series 16-channel NVR (DS-9616NI-ST), a high-performance recorder, featuring RAID functionality and support, along with eight SATA interfaces and up to 48 TB of storage. 


“The entire system is very efficient,” stated Mr. Overland. “You don’t have to wade through hours and hours of video to see something – that also saves hard drive space.” 


Even with the ample space available in this NVR, Video Content Analysis features such as motion detection maximize storage efficiency, reducing saved data when it isn’t needed. 

 

Results: High Image Quality and Ease of Use

Since the completion of the installation, Greenwood’s men and women in blue have been enjoying a host of benefits with their new surveillance system. 


Commander Gutsgell remarked, “It’s been a great system in terms of quality and being able to pull things up. If I’m trying to reach one of my criminalists, I can just pull up the system and see, oh, they’re in-taking property into evidence.” 


In general, keeping an eye on things at the lab is now virtually effortless.  


It’s said beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And in the surveillance industry, it should be said that effectiveness is, too, in the eye of the beholder. So naturally, with the overhauled system, the strength of the system was judged by what they saw on the screen. More than that, remote viewing became possible with Hikvision’s networked video recorder (NVR).


“From what we’re used to, [the difference in image quality is] night and day. Before it was analog and low quality, we had issues with the feed coming through to dispatch. From my perspective, it’s an outstanding system in terms of quality and clarity.” The Commander went on to say, “I can sit at my desk, which is in a different building from the crime lab, and look up anything that I need.”


Effective surveillance of the premises is complemented by the flexibility it provides for accessing video off-site.  


Conclusion

The Greenwood Village Police Department’s crime lab is making good use of a fluid, comprehensive, state-of-the-art surveillance system, with features that will serve them well for many years down the road. The powerful NVR offers the option to add cameras to the system if they are needed in the future, and the smart features are just a few clicks away. Commander Gutsgell was happy to report that the new system got the lab – in his own words – “out of the dark ages” in the surveillance area. 


Hikvision works to bolster the natural relationship between the security industry and law enforcement officials. The crime lab Greenwood Village is one example of how Hikvision products and solutions help make these officials’ jobs easier and more efficient, allowing them to maximize their resources and better protect their communities.


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