Sharing video with police

The swift and successful investigation of the terrorist attack during the Boston Marathon shined a bright light on the value of both public and private-sector video when shared with police. It is common knowledge that police regularly ask public...

In the event of an emergency at one of the casinos, police can call up the casino’s video surveillance system and talk on the radio with casino employees from police landlines or cell phones. Employees that are off-site can use their cell phones to call in and reach other employees over the radio. Once on site, police can use their radios to talk to casino employees who are using casino radios.

That’s a lot of sharing. “There are some concerns about big brother watching,” Wright concedes. “But the casinos will only share when they want to. Casino employees must set the Mutualink technology to allow sharing before the police can get into the system. Casino employees can turn it off any time they want.”

Now that the casinos are online, Atlantic City plans to expand the Mutualink network to other private entities.

Atlanta’s Goal: Link 14,000 cameras

In years past, Atlanta police would go to businesses near the scene of an incident and ask for video. All too often, the video quality wasn’t good enough or the cameras were inoperable. Today, the city is integrating public and private camera feeds—often from updated systems—into a single center. The goal is to tie 14,000 cameras together over the next five years. The Operation Shield Video Integration Center, as it is called, has currently garnered feeds from nearly 1,700 cameras from private organizations, public entities and the City of Atlanta. The Center has been open for 18 months.

The private sector in Atlanta is stepping up to build out the system. “We’re getting access to private businesses and large corporations,” says Grant M. Hawkins, MPA, vice president of Programs & Strategic Projects with the Atlanta Police Foundation. “They are investing in infrastructure, and this is saving the city the cost of adding more of its own cameras. Often the companies upgrade their system so that we can have access. I think this is a good model for a public-private partnership for video sharing.”

To tie the disparate camera systems together, the Center uses PSIM software from CNL Software called IPSecurityCenter, which can connect and manage disparate building and security technologies such as video, fire and life safety systems, HVAC GPS tracking and others. “The PSIM enables us to pull in different camera and system types,” Hawkins says. “It can pull up anything—alarms, locators, tag readers. It enables us to integrate all of our siloed systems, including the computer-aided dispatch system.

“We can tap into the cameras during an incident,” Hawkins continues. “Officers will use the video to understand the situation before they arrive. Once on the scene, video can help them mitigate the situation. After the incident, the video becomes an investigative tool.”

Once the cameras are in, the project will begin to integrate what Hawkins calls live crime data with the video. Once the data is added in, here’s an example of how it will work:

When a “shots-fired” call comes in to 911, the operator will push a button to send a code designating the call to the Video Integration Center. Officers are dispatched, and as they start on their way, officers in the Center will call up video feeds from the four nearest cameras and can tell officers about the scene. In addition, officers in the Center will call up the now live crime data for that location to provide perspective. The data might reveal that there have been 10 shooting incidents at the location over the past two years. The trouble usually involves a drug deal gone wrong. Most of these incidents have only involved two people.

The system enables officers to understand the situation at the scene before they arrive and whether or not it is the same kind of event that historically happens at this location. In the end, these kinds of shared video systems will help to make police more effective, and safer, on the job.


Geoffrey T. Craighead, CPP, is vice president of Universal Protection Service and the current president of ASIS International. With more than 30 years experience, he is an expert in security operations and crisis management.