Monday, July 26, 2010

Security Cameras Aid Police in Drowning Investigation

Security Cameras Aid Police in Drowning Investigation Last Saturday, Veronica and Angelina Andreottola were found floating in their backyard swimming pool. According to the Boston Herald, the girls' mother was heard screaming, as she pulled them from the pool. Neighbors, including an off-duty police officer, attempted to perform CPR, but unfortunately, it was too late. Both of the girls died.

The swimming pool was said to be covered with an electric-powered retractable cover, but how the girls managed to pull the cover back, or if they did, hasn't been determined.

According to a spokeswoman for the local district attorney's office, state police will be viewing footage from the home's residential security cameras. They are hoping it will help them find out exactly how the two little girls ended up in the pool.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Security Camera Terminology Part 2

Security Camera Terminology Part 2

Last week, we took a look at some Security Camera Terminology. Knowing what some of these terms mean can help anyone who is looking to buy a surveillance system for their home or business find exactly what they're looking for. Unfortunately, the language of security cameras goes beyond those twenty words. Since so many people found our first list of security camera terms very helpful, we've decided to follow up with a second list of even more words and definitions.

1. AC Adaptor - The power supply to your camera. The AC adaptor converts AC power to DC power and should come along with your camera.

2. Alarm Input - Some security cameras will begin recording when activated by a sensor or alarm.

3. Angle of View - The angle of view is the range in degrees that you can focus a security camera without causing the image to become distorted.

4. Aperture - The opening of the lens that controls the amount of of light that goes into the camera is called the aperture.

5. Armor Dome Camera - An armor dome camera has a high-impact dome casing around it, in an effort to prevent vandalism. The dome is made of reinforced polycarbonate.

6. Backlight Compensation - BLC is the ability of the camera to compensate when the background light of the subject being filmed is obscured by blooming or silhouetting.

7. CCD - CCD stands for Charge-Coupled Device. Every camera either has a CCD or CMOS chip. CCD chips produce a higher quality image.

8. Compression - This is when you take an incoming signal or image and restructure the data so that it uses less resources for transmission and storage.

9. Duplex - A duplex allows you to transfer data in and out of the recorder at the same time. For example, a duplex DVR can capture and record images while displaying another image.

10. Focal Length - If you want to know the strength of your lens, check the focal length. A longer focal length provides a narrower angle of view, a shorter focal length means a wider angle of view.

11. Iris - The iris is located on the camera lens and it controls how much light is let into the camera.

12. Low Light - This refers to normal darkness or dim lighting.

13. Lux - Lux is the amount of light a camera needs to capture a good image. For example, if you're using an infrared camera, you have a very low lux.

14. Micro Camera - This is a very small camera that is often used as a hidden camera when you don't want people to know they are being filmed.

15. Motion Detection - Some cameras only begin recording when an image moves or changes and sets them off. This can save hard drive space and is great in areas where there is not a lot of traffic and you are only looking for suspicious movement.

16. Mounting Bracket - There are many different types of mounting brackets. They are used to install cameras on the wall or ceiling.

17. Pin-Hole Camera - As you can imagine, a pin-hole camera has a very small lens with a very small hole. They require more lighting than a normal camera but are great for covert operations.

18. POE - POE stands for power over ethernet. This is an adaptor that allows you to transmit power to a security camera through an ethernet cable.

19. Real-Time Recording - 30 frames per second is the standard for real-time recording. This means the image looks just like real-time with no hesitation or jerkiness in the video.

20. Video Gain - This is also called amplification and basically means an increase in video signal power by an amplifier.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Security Camera Terminology

Security Camera Technology
When you're purchasing a security camera, it's hard to know exactly what you're looking for. There are so many different terms association with surveillance systems that the average person probably doesn't know what they mean. That can making purchasing a camera or surveillance system a lot harder than it should be. In the event that you are purchasing a camera and need a little help with the language, here is a quick guide to 20 security camera terminology and definitions.

1. AES - AES stands for Auto Electronic Shutter. This is the ability of the camera to compensate for changes in light without using auto iris lenses.

2. Analog - In electronics, there are two different ways to represent data: Analog and Digital. Analog represents data by measuring a continuous physical variable as a voltage of pressure.

3. Bullet Camera - A bullet camera is a camera that is essentially shaped like a bullet, and often a less expensive choice when choosing a security camera.

4. CAT5 - Cat5 stands for Category 5 cable, which is often used in networking applications.

5. CCTV - You may see CCTV often when looking for cameras; this stands for closed-circuit television.

6. Dome Camera - Like its name says, a dome camera has a dome-like shape and is often used indoors. Features often include infrared lighting and they are often tamper-proof.

7. Field of View - This is basically what is visible to the lens of your camera and that will vary based on the distance of the camera from its subject or what type of lens is being used.

8. Housing - A camera's housing is the container or cover surrounding it to protect it from elements such as weather.

9. Infrared Camera - These types of cameras have special infrared lights around the outside of the lens and can capture pictures even in complete darkness.

10. JPEG - JPEG stands for "Joint Photographic Experts Group." This is the standard way of compressing photographic images.

11. Pan-Tilt-Zoom Camera - Pant-Tilt-Zoom or PTZ cameras allow you to use adjust the position and focus of the camera with a remote control. They can be fairly expensive.

12. Plug and Play Cable - These types of cameras have three wires built into one with attached connectors.

13. Remote Surveillance - The ability to view your cameras from a remote location. For example, if you own a store and have place cameras in that store, you can view the images from your home computer.

14. Resolution - Resolution basically tells you how much detail your camera can see. The higher the resolution, the more detail that can be viewed.

15. Smart Search - This feature of digital video records allows you to search for changes in an image over time. If something is stolen, you can fast forward to and search for the point in time when the item disappears from the camera's view.

16. Switch - A switch takes multiple camera inputs and shows them on a monitor, one at a time, or allows you to view a particular input at a time.

17. Transformer - Transfer energy from one circuit to another, inductively coupled wire coils that effect such a transfer with a change in voltage, current, phase, or other electric characteristic.

18. Video Input - This is a connection that allows you to plug a camera into a video controller or recording device. You can connect as many cameras to a device as there are input devices.

19. Weatherproof - Any camera described as "weatherproof" means that it can be placed outside and not, for the most part, be affected by harsh weather or extreme temperature changes.

20. Wireless Camera - Wireless cameras transmit video and audio via waves instead of wires.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Boston Security Cameras Keeping Streets Safe

Boston Security CamerasIn hundreds of cities around the country, local law enforcement have been using security cameras to catch people breaking the speed limit and, even more recently, running red lights. Well, the officers in Boston, Massachusetts are taking this idea one step further. Boston Police have installed cameras all over the city that are capable of detecting the discharge of firearms.

Financed by the Federal Government, these cameras are being placed under bridges, on thoroughfares and around bustling shopping districts as part of an anti-terrorism campaign. A camera was installed last week in East Milton Square in Boston, seven cameras, with the hopes of two more added this year, have been set up in Quincy and in Everett 16 to 20 cameras are trained on the port, major road arteries and industrial complexes, all of which have been deemed potential terrorist targets.

Police in all the above communities wish to link their camera feeds in hopes of keeping an eye on towns and cities outside their jurisdiction. Police also say that the technology will help officers track a suspect fleeing from one town to another.

But with everything that involves government and security, there is a fair share of skepticism, especially from the Civil Liberties Union. Carol Rose, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, says, "We're building a system that creates a net of surveillance over everyone in the Boston Metropolitan Region. It's a net of surveillance that allows local police and federal agents to monitor and record our every movement without any oversight of how the information will be used now or in the long run."

There are a grand total of nine communities that are a part of the new camera program: Boston, Quincy, Winthrop, Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, Everett, Chelsea and Revere. All nine of these communities have been deemed by the federal government to be at a high risk for terrorist attacks. These areas make up one of 64 areas around the nation that come under a program called the "Urban Area Security Initiative", a program receiving $832.5 million this fiscal year from Homeland Security.

"We focus these grants on the cities that face the highest risk," said Homeland Security spokesman Chris Ortman. "We continue to improve our risk assessment tools to ensure we are calculating these risks in the smartest and most efficient ways possible." Lieutenant Bob Gillan, Supervisor of the Quincy Police Homeland Security Unit, believes that the cameras will help officers quickly figure out the problem and what kind of help to give. "A picture is worth a thousand words," he said. "If we can see it that much faster, we know what's going on."

Officers in almost all of the cities have reported that they have met with little or no resistance to the cameras. Gillan reports that the cameras in place do not pick up anything that the average passerby can not see. "Anything we see is completely public." Other stories from different cities have reported the value in the cameras. Milton Police Chief Richard Wells noted how cameras in Brookline assisted in the quick capture of two rape and kidnapping suspects last year.

However, programs like this have seen bumpy spots in the road. The program in Cambridge came to a halt last year when the City Council unanimously voted against activating the cameras. Twelve cameras in Brookline are only allowed to operate at night, a compromise reached after a Town Meeting passed a resolution to take them down.

Boston Security Cameras like these, and the ones all over the country, do have an immense potential to assist Police Officers in keeping local streets safe from not only local criminals but also potential terrorist attacks. While the privacy issues noted with the cameras do hold their own weight of concern, I believe the potential good of the cameras far outweighs the potential bad.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Security Cameras Make Perfect Witnesses

Security Cameras Make Perfect WitnessesWhen a detective visits a crime scene, one of the first things he does is look for a security camera. Security cameras are becoming increasingly common these days. You can find them in everything from businesses to schools to government buildings and even in private homes. And they work a lot better than your average human witness to a crime.

Security cameras can perform a number of functions. Some say the mere sight of a camera in your home or business can prevent a crime from happening because the would-be criminal knows how easily the police can use the captured images to identify him. And in the event a crime does take place, police and other officials do have the best possible evidence when the crime was caught on camera. Images can be released to the public, through the media, in hopes that someone can identify the criminal. And of course, those images can later be used in court to prove that person committed the crime.

"People forget that we're always under surveillance, except maybe in our home. Once we walk out those doors, everyone can now see what we're doing and record what we're doing," Tod Burke, a professor at Radford University and former police officer told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

There is one problem detectives and other police officers often run into when dealing with security cameras: technical issues. There are so many different types of security cameras, often with many different features or using various types of software, that figuring out how to retrieve information isn't always simple. Detectives may find themselves pouring over hours and hours of video, just waiting for the right moment or for the right person to walk by.

Human witnesses are great for getting a quick story about what happened in the event of a crime, but when it comes to the details, the human brain isn't exactly reliable. Any number of things, including other witnesses, our own biases, or even questions asked by police officers can convince someone they saw something they didn't. It may be as simple as saying the criminal wore a blue shirt instead of a black one, or it could be that the witness thought she saw three men instead of two. But when a security camera is present, there is no doubt in anyone's mind as to the exact details of what happened.