Digital stakeouts

     When the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) conducts sustained surveillance of marijuana grow fields, they need video systems that not only produce high-quality images, but that also tolerate rain, humidity and temperature fluctuations...

     The core of an XOA-based video surveillance system is the combination of a digital imaging system and a PC. The field-deployable components are housed in a portable, weatherproof and environmentally sealed Pelican hard-shell case.

     Investigators select and install up to four camera platforms to suit each individual surveillance venture, depending on the type of operation (marijuana grow fields, meth labs, vandalism, illegal dumping, etc.), whether it must be manned or unmanned; and allowing for lighting conditions, distance limitations, terrain, peripheral options, officer safety and budget.

     With XOA, investigators can control up to four imaging systems that include the camera, mount and cables. Sur-Tec's line of cameras includes:

  • XOA-PTZ — A long-range, pan-tilt-zoom camera and platform that can be used in either color or black-and-white mode.
  • XOA- IRCAM — A high-resolution, color, day/night infrared bullet camera.
  • XOA-C-FF or XOA-BW-FF — A fixed focal length bullet camera (available for color or black-and-white recording).
  • XOA-DNIS — A long-range day or night imaging system encased in a small weather-resistant and watertight package. The system can switch between color and black-and-white image display, and its camera shoots through a Lexan viewing port.

     KBI uses two-camera XOA systems for drug enforcement surveillance. The agents install the XOA-DNIS and XOA-FF imaging systems and controller according to the particular conditions and targets.

     The mix of cameras accommodates a range of situations and investigative objectives. For example, KBI often positions one camera with a wider view to help identify where suspects access a grow field. They place a second camera with a more direct, front-on view, intending to capture the individual's face. "We can be as far away as 100 yards and still get good video," Jorgensen says. "After a week, we caught a suspect wearing a camouflage suit with a full-face camouflage hood and face mask because we actually could ID him."

Through-the-lens technology

     XOA's innovative, through-the-lens technology allows the operator to select a specific region on the screen to monitor for motion detection. The feature minimizes false triggers often associated with systems based on infrared sensors.

     Whether XOA runs one imaging system or four, investigators can capture video in three modes:

  • 24/7 continuous or time-scheduled recording at a pre-defined resolution and frame rate.
  • Through-the-lens, multi-zone motion detection, multi-zone masking, at a pre-defined resolution and frame rate.
  • Through-the-lens motion detection combined with 24/7 continuous recording at a single frame per second during non-events. This mode allows an auto-switch to activate a higher resolution and frame rate (defined by the user) upon event trigger.

     The system's monitor is touch-screen sensitive. Its simple design minimizes the number of push-button controls and speeds overall programming and set-up. The operator can maneuver cameras and pinpoint areas within the image when motion is detected. The interface also supports split-screen monitoring to view video from up to four cameras simultaneously.

     Using drop-down menus, operators schedule recording and establish thresholds for motion detection to focus on the target area. Thus, XOA runs only when the operator specifies. Tailoring the settings minimizes false triggers and conserves battery power.

     Weather, terrain, wildlife and installation techniques push the limits of regular cameras, computer hardware and related components. Other electronic devices are sensitive to physical wear and tear and "creative" installation techniques. However, the XOA Series system is rugged enough to tolerate a variety of environmental factors. KBI agents often bury cameras near grow fields. In one case, a suspect actually stepped on the camera; there was no damage to the equipment, and agents still retrieved usable video. "Wherever you can hide it, you can use it," Jorgensen observes.

Sound evidence
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