“Using clearer still images produced by VideoFOCUS Pro, we’ve made multiple arrests and have also been able post photos of suspects we are actively working to identify.”
University Public Safety Director, USA
Video Forensics Generates Crime Leads for a Major Metropolitan University
About The University
Founded over 100 years ago, this University has its main campus in one of the country’s largest cities, and occupies more than six city blocks, spanning 32 acres. Over 3,000 faculty and about 25,000 students have access to its campus, including the busy main library, which is open 24 hours a day and serves as a center of late night studying.
Mr. James Verdicchio, former Assistant Director of Investigations & Technology Projects, worked for the University’s Department of Public Safety, which has a mission to enhance the quality of life for its community by maintaining a secure and open environment, where safety is balanced with the rights of the individual.
Mr. Verdicchio works from two separate campuses, which are staffed and operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While working in the Investigations & Technology Projects unit, he helped design a majority of the university security and surveillance systems, and ensured CCTV cameras were placed where security personnel would get the best views of high traffic and crime activity areas. Altogether, there are over 2,000 cameras set up throughout over 100 school buildings.
The University is located within the jurisdiction of the city, so the Department of Public Safety works closely with the local police department, along with other Security & Public Safety Departments. Mr. Verdicchio consulted with several of these departments, and assisted with their surveillance projects, in an effort to safeguard the campus, share crime prevention strategies and aggressively investigate incidents. Mr. Verdicchio and his team are in daily contact with local detective squads to share investigation information and conduct real-time crime analysis. The Department of Public Safety is staffed by over 100 full-time security officers licensed by the state.
When a crime is reported, one of the main tools Mr. Verdicchio goes to are the University’s cameras, as well as those of one of the University’s neighbors, to check video surveillance. “We know how to use and process surveillance video and we need to be able to get the best results, quickly, as part of our responsibility to the students and staff,” he said.
However, not all surveillance video is clear or captures the best view of a scene. Video can be generally either poor resolution or in badly lit areas. In some cases video is multiplexed (with multiple camera streams recorded together) and law enforcement can’t play it back. Even worse, investigators are also challenged when video is recorded in a proprietary digital file format not easily transferable for processing and analysis on law enforcement PCs.
At the recommendation of a friend in the local District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Verdicchio evaluated the VideoFOCUS Pro video forensics system from Salient Stills in 2008. He also checked other video forensics systems, but found them too complicated and confusing. During that summer, when there were fewer students on campus and it is typically less active, he implemented VideoFOCUS Pro, allowing for a few weeks of a learning curve, and soon began successfully processing surveillance video.
Mr. Verdicchio found VideoFOCUS Pro easy to use, with a quick, initial learning curve. And, the more he uses the system, the faster he can extract higher quality still images and video. “Using VideoFOCUS Pro, we can capture the video directly from the camera or do a screen capture. We then process it frame by frame – which is invaluable when we get the money shot,” he said. “Finally, we use that to get a good picture out as quickly as possible.”
These clearer quality still images are shared with students, faculty, local law enforcement and the community, in the form of security alerts, which also note the day/time of the crime, location and nature of the crime. The most common crimes are bicycle thefts, purse snatchings, burglaries, and robberies on or around the campus.
“Using clearer still images produced by VideoFOCUS Pro, we’ve made multiple arrests and have also been able post photos of suspects we are actively working to identify,” said Mr. Verdicchio.
The school has many examples of recording video of criminals in the process of committing a crime, and processing the video with VideoFOCUS Pro to produce usable images to identify, arrest and prosecute offenders. For example, in late 2009, two purse snatching robbery cases happened in the same area, with the same weapon displayed. Mr. Verdicchio and his team pulled up videos of the scenes, clarified facial and clothing information, identified and arrested the suspect, and closed the two cases in a matter of days.
Since May 2009, Verdicchio estimates he has used the system about two to three times each week, spanning about 150 cases a year on campus, and assisting local detective squads multiple times.
Mr. Verdicchio recently worked with a Network Video Recorder (NVR) and did a direct, frame by frame, screen capture from the NVR’s proprietary video file format, producing Department of Motor Vehicle quality photos. “One of my favorite features is what Salient Stills calls the super resolution,” he said. “I also like the filters and levels adjust to sharpen and lighten.”
VideoFOCUS Pro, an advanced video forensics solution, dramatically improves the ability to capture and export crime scene video, working with proprietary video data formats from surveillance and security systems, as well as from cell phones. Through this system, law enforcement and campus security officers can capture video directly from proprietary DVRs, while the video is played.
“Salient Stills for me is like icing on the cake, if you have medium to good video, this software makes it better,” said Mr. Verdicchio.
Mr. James Verdicchio, CPP, PCI, PSP, CSPM, CFI, recently took a Director of Public Safety position in Bronx, NY.