There are more than four billion camera-equipped mobile phones in circulation around the world – and videos and photographs captured on these devices are increasingly playing a significant role in solving crimes.
“Today everyone owns a smartphone. Even in cities like London – one of the most surveilled cities in the world – the number of CCTV cameras does not even come close to number of HD/4K smartphone cameras that people carry in their pockets,” explains Jamie Wilson, marketing manager for public safety for NICE Systems throughout EMEA.
“When incidents happen in public, someone is bound to snap a photo or video. This type of crowdsourced evidence can provide some of the best leads in cases. The faster it can be gathered and processed, the quicker offenders can be taken into custody and charged.”
However, he says obtaining such evidence is not always easy. For example, if an incident takes place in a busy metropolitan area, witnesses are likely to have dispersed by the time officers arrive. And that means they often have to resort to knocking on doors or making public appeals via the press, radio or television.
“Which leads us to the question: Is there a better, faster way?” says Mr Wilson in his latest public safety blog.
One answer is digital evidence management technology.
“The technology’s secure public portal gives forces an easy way to crowdsource video, photos and tips,” explains Mr Wilson. “Recently, two polices forces on opposite sides of the UK successfully used the technology in separate investigations that occurred within days of each other.”
Another example came in last October’s Extinction Rebellion protests across London.
“Throughout the disruptions, police used Twitter to share information with the public about areas of disruption, and to highlight the dangers of protester actions, such as climbing on top of arriving trains,” said Mr Wilson.
“The seriousness of these incidents, which involved altercations with commuters, also led police to take to social media to appeal to the public for evidence. Social media users were instructed to upload relevant videos and photos through a secure ‘public portal’. With one click from Twitter anyone with information or evidence could upload text, pictures or footage (even anonymously if they wished).”
The same technology was used in Liverpool a day later when a woman was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.
“In that case, Merseyside Police issued an appeal through an online version of a local newspaper (the Liverpool Echo), instructing anyone who had witnessed the crime and had dashcam or CCTV footage, to upload it through the secure public portal.
“In both instances, the new technology not only sped up the process of gathering evidence, but also helped the forces cast a far wider net, while making it easier for those who might have been fearful to come forward to share vital evidence.”