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Believe it or not, most criminals have social media profiles as well as mug shots online that can be instantly accessed and matched to criminal acts. With the addition of today’s security cameras which have become more affordable with higher video definition that capture faces with more clarity than ever before, giving us more information to work with. The problem is that most police departments are not as savvy as most teenagers and young adults when it comes to using social media as a conduit to track everyone they come in contact with.
Case in point, A client of mine, on a particular night, needed to find out who robbed their nightclub of very expensive liquor that was cased behind their main counter. Thinking that it was probably an inside job, a young manager reviewed the surveillance video from the club’s closing and saw an individual hanging with the event promoters and staff after the club shut down for the night. At one point, when he was left alone, the manager watched the individual, on video playback, take a few large bottle of very expensive liquor to the back door when no one was looking. After accumulating several bottles at the door in a large paper bag you can see him prop the door open and swiftly take the bag out to a car off in the distance and come back into the nightclub to mingle some more with the club’s staff. When the nightclub manager saw this she did something that I wouldn’t have expected. Instead of calling in the promoters and staff members to grill them to find out the identity of that person, she decided to go directly to Facebook, looked up the promoters of that night’s profile and found the culprit tagged in several party pictures. Now she was armed with surveillance video and tagged pictures from Facebook with the promoters. Now she had all the ammunition she needed.
Others are finding that matching faces found on video surveillance can be done with both Facebook and Google search manually. There are even security camera monitoring services that will match a face from a surveillance video by running it through several databases like the National Sex Offender Registry, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram within minutes as well as dating sites such as Plenty of Fish, Match.com and OkCupid.
To some, this may sound like an invasion of privacy and granted it does feel Orwellian knowing that your presence can be tracked by an owner of a security camera system but you also have to look at it from the point of view of safety and retail shrinkage. Security cameras have been a great tool in fighting crime and preventing crime. Most criminal cases are solved every day because of security video footage but as in all cases, time is of the essence. Perpetrators of crimes like shoplifting, burglary and assaults have only a 24% chance of getting caught if the perpetrator is not identified within 24 hours of the incident even if the culprit’s face was caught on video. This is actually a pretty good number for most police departments because it means they are catching criminals in one out of four cases when the culprit fled the scene but that number can easily raise up to almost 71% when the perpetrator is identified within 12 hours according to the Wall Street Journal reports on crime data from 2011 and 2012.
If you’re tech-savvy, use the technology that’s available to you now. Most police investigators don’t use face recognition services or software (or are even familiar with using them) to catch criminals and it’s up to you to make that extra effort to find them quickly. Unfortunately, the technology you see on shows like ‘CSI – (choose your city)’ is rarely used in the real world of criminal investigation even for most federal cases. The surprising thing is that smaller communities and police departments are adopting this technology because of departmental size and a lack of police budgets. It’s just simpler to use the technology that’s available instead of additional manpower on any particular case. Ellsworth, Maine police department used Facebook to upload pictures of a shoplifting incident of prescription drugs that took place last March in the community’s Ellsworth Osco drug store and within minutes Ellsworth P.D. received instant feedback from the community and had the individual identified. The police department boasts over several thousand followers on Facebook and uses a variety of facial recognition techniques online. I’ve worked with police departments in Chicago, Orlando and other major city police departments and none of them at the present time use this technology. Bureaucracy or the hefty amount of cases to be processed may be the reasons why new technology takes a while to filter to large metropolitan police departments.
Ellsworth P.D. might not have been able to catch this prescription drug culprit if it wasn’t for the security camera system and the willingness to use available technology. As a security consultant, I am constantly surprised by the lack of security protocols of most workplaces as well as entertainment hubs and hotels. Security cameras are the least expensive security measure that can be taken and they should be ubiquitous in these places with high video definition but a defining way to identify suspects quickly is paramount. Believe it or not, TV shows like ‘Person of Interest’ and ‘Homeland’ give audiences an impression that we are already facially tracked by just about every security camera system out there but as owners of those camera systems will tell you, the FBI and local authorities have a hard time tracking people based on the constant request they receive for the same hard copy of recorded video from the same departments when an incident happens.
According to laws in most states, as an owner or manager of your establishment, you are reasonably responsible for the safety of your customers and workforce. If a lawsuit discovers that there was documentation that a number of employees or even customers asked that you install security cameras in your established place of business you can open yourself up to a can of worms or even lawsuits for not complying with reasonable requests for security measures if a tragic incident occurs. So do your homework, when you do decide to implement a surveillance camera system that incorporates the benefit of a facial recognition service make sure that your security provider, coordinator or consultant is knowledgeable of which security camera system works best for your location as well as a good facial recognition service to protect you from the video anonymity of criminals.
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