Presenting high-quality, admissible video evidence also reduces court-related costs and maximizes personnel. "When you have the suspect positively identified in the video, it's hard to argue with that," Jorgensen says. Thus, the agency reduces the time required to prepare for — or be in — court because the agents can provide clear evidence that is clear cut and objective.
In contrast to imaging systems that record video to a computer's internal hard drive, XOA records independent video files directly to removable media, such as a USB hard drive or a thumb drive. This design preserves the original source of the evidence, eliminating the need for a computer's hard drive to be admitted as evidence. The digital video system can continue to be deployed for investigations, so it's never out of service because it's tied up in the legal process.
But even a perfect video image would be worthless if cannabis leaves blew across the lens, obscuring the field of vision.
The XOA system gives agents the ability to review video in the field, which also streamlines the investigation. Agents can make changes in the field and adjust controls or re-position the cameras on the fly to react to the suspect's behaviors or correct a problem.Residential observation
Jorgensen has also deployed Sur-Tec video surveillance systems in residential settings, typically to monitor activity related to methamphetamine labs. In one case, the neighborhood setting of a meth lab's stash house did not lend itself to place an agent for real-time surveillance. However, a wooded park across the street provided a perfect site for a video surveillance setup. Agents installed two cameras with different focal lengths to capture video from two angles. Jorgensen's team controlled the cameras from more than a block away. During the extended investigation they identified several individuals as well as vehicles, and captured video evidence of the suspects' activities.
In addition to typical daylight settings, XOA cameras are designed to operate in some low-light settings, such as bright moonlight or lighted parking lots. For no-light settings, XOA-IRCAM's use of 940 nm infrared technology reduces exposure to countermeasures that would compromise the surveillance. (Most infrared systems use 730 nm light, thus making the camera system visible to the naked eye.)
Video from low-light settings has helped investigators establish strategies for physical surveillance. "When we can determine a suspect's patterns over time, those patterns often help us plan physical surveillance and staffing," Jorgensen says. "We may be able to narrow the days or time of day we place an agent on site."
The standard configuration of XOA uses a 10/100 Mb Ethernet hard-wired or wireless connection supporting remote operation and access. XOA's latest design also supports wireless transmission via an optional peripheral device (XOA-WiFi or Cell-COM) and an Internet connection. This feature gives operators the ability to adjust camera positioning and change control settings over a secure connection. If desired, investigators can receive e-mail notification, including a frame from the video, when movement triggers an "alarmed" camera to start recording. In addition, the operator can respond immediately and download video remotely to assess events in real time. The wireless Internet feature appeals to Jorgensen, who notes the emerging trend toward video-over-IP (VoIP) for surveillance.
With XOA, Sur-Tec combines advanced digital video technology with a user-friendly design in a rugged, weatherproof, portable surveillance system. Manned or unmanned, XOA's high-resolution, motion-sensitive cameras collect raw data as the eyes and ears of investigators.
From a technology and usability standpoint, XOA meets demanding surveillance needs. In terms of economic value, it frees up investigators, making the most of an agency's resources, both financial and staff. Most of all, its users say it delivers the evidence.
In Jorgensen's opinion, Sur-Tec systems have provided a valuable, cost-effective solution for his agency.
"We've had [about] an 80 percent success rate of getting someone on video, and 98 percent of the time we can identify the person," he says. "Once the prosecution sees the video, we rarely have had to spend time in court. I don't think we've ever been to trial when we used Sur-Tec systems."