“The de-multiplex option on our VideoFOCUS forensics system is just awesome. It easily
separates the different camera feeds so we can get usable images and video.”
“Without VideoFOCUS, I would be dead in the water.”
Detective, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Section, OH, USA
Hamilton County Criminal Investigation Section Uses Advanced Video Technology to Solve Crimes Caught on Camera
About Hamilton County
Hamilton County's chief law enforcement agency is the Sheriff's Department. Over the past few years, the department has adopted the latest technology and specialized investigative equipment. This included video forensics, for analysis of crime scene video. John Mulholland is an evidence technician with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Section (CIS), and is responsible for video forensics evidence and processing. He supports 30 detectives who collect video every week from local banks, supermarkets, retailers and other business that have been the scene of thefts, burglaries and robberies.
When John Mulholland first started with Hamilton County, he used to collect surveillance and security footage on VCR tapes. While easy to collect and bring back to CIS for processing, VCR video is often multiplexed, with several video streams combined on a single tape. "The de-multiplex option on our VideoFOCUS forensics system is just awesome. It easily separates the different camera feeds so we can get usable images and video," he said.
As more digital cameras are put into use instead of analog VCR taping systems, there is less of a need for demultiplexing. "Some experts argue that the quality is better with video surveillance using a new VCR tape. However, if the digital system has enough lines of resolution and frame rate, then manipulating the data for color, light/dark and so on is better," continued Mulholland. "The view may be better with VCR video, but each time it is played you lose a little as the tape stretches. Using VideoFOCUS, we can capture the video, digitize it and can play and manipulate the images without losing anything."
However, one challenge with digital video is that each DVR is proprietary and requires its own software. VideoFOCUS is able to capture digital video details while running the video on the proprietary systems.
"There are other features in VideoFOCUS that I look forward to using, specifically masking," said Mulholland. "Masking is blocking out an area, such as a clerk's face during a robbery."
Using VideoFOCUS, the CIS was able to produce her photo and appeal to the public for help identifying her. A tip was soon called in, and when questioned and presented with the critical piece of video evidence, the woman confessed. She had stabbed him because he refused to pay after receiving her prostitution services. The woman was convicted and is now serving a sentence of 25 years to life.
In another case, a man entered a store and approached the clerk, pulling out a gun and firing several shots, missing the clerk by inches, during a robbery of about $2,000. Mulholland used VideoFOCUS to capture stills of the robbery from the surveillance video. The still images showed two distinct items on the suspect's clothing -- a big, round emblem and visible gun powder burns where the suspect was holding the weapon too close to the shirt. Though not readily apparent in the original crime scene video, once processed with VideoFOCUS, these turned out to be important clues that led to the apprehension of the suspect.
Further, the store clerk informed a detective that with the money was a thin cardboard note about the store's bookkeeping. The thin cardboard was actually from a cigarette carton and the note was written in the clerk's native language. A person of interest was brought in for questioning but denied everything. However, the suspect was wearing the same clothes seen in the video and the emblem on the shirt and gun powder burns were clearly visible. When examining the contents of the suspect's pockets, the thin cardboard note described by the clerk was found. These items tied the suspect back to the robbery. Faced with the totality of the evidence, the suspect confessed and is now serving 10 years in jail
In another case, there was a shooting on a school basketball court, after hours. The school's surveillance camera system caught the entire altercation among 30 high school teenagers intent on settling a previous conflict. Using VideoFOCUS, Mulholland was able to produce snapshots of each of the teenagers and determine where each was standing, and what they were wearing. In comparing statements to this evidence, investigators were able to identify the shooter. He was tried as an adult and is serving six to 10 years for felonious assault.
Using VideoFOCUS, investigators can quickly inspect and zoom into smaller areas of videos and stills, with new filters available for both still images and video, including sharpen, equalize, blur, levels, color adjustment and camera stabilization.
VideoFOCUS can also capture, edit and export audio within video files, providing a critical audio complement to video surveillance. Using innovative image processing algorithms, Salient Stills' imaging software remains unsurpassed in quickly processing still and video surveillance data into usable images, while preserving their integrity.
"Without VideoFOCUS, I would be dead in the water," joked Mulholland.