Miami Beach PD increasing usefulness of video with connected cameras

Posted on Dec 03, 2015

Video cameras have long been a crime deterrent and an investigative tool for law enforcement, allowing officers to gain critical information about incidents by observing events as they occur. The real-time aspect of video as a crime control tool is just starting to emerge, however. While there have certainly been applications of video for in-the-moment monitoring and surveillance in the past, the explosive growth of digital technology in recent years has opened doors for new uses and applications. An innovative new system used by the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) is one such example of the growing power of video when paired with digital connections.

Significant improvements for visibility
The longtime limitation with cameras in terms of real-time work has been a lack of instantaneous visibility. While some cities like Chicago have seen success with CCTV cameras placed throughout its borders and many municipalities have the ability to view feeds from cameras on city property live, the networks are limited in scope and utility. A new approach taken by the MBPD links a variety of fixed and mobile cameras to give officers better visibility of situations as they happen. One of the most important aspects of the enhanced system for the department is addressing potential active shooter situations. The ability to see into a building or public area before subduing a shooter can positively influence response and resolution.

"Using technology to get everybody on board and on the same page early enough can mean the difference between life and death."

Local NBC affiliate WTVJ said the cameras give officers the opportunity to coordinate their response during a tense and dangerous event. With camera feeds streaming directly to department headquarters and the ability to link footage taken by smartphones and similar devices to the same command center, supervisors can direct officers approaching an active shooter situation in the safest and most effective way possible. This increased flow of visual information can help officers resolve active shooter situations more quickly without increasing the potential for harm.

"Using technology to get everybody on board and on the same page early enough can mean the difference between life and death," said Shari Holbert, Miami Beach Emergency Department staff member, to WTVJ. "It really can."

Other applications
Beyond the high risks of an active shooter situation, the increased visibility offered by a connected camera network also helps response efforts in other high-risk categories. Depending on type and scope, response to natural disasters and other large-scale issues could also be improved. The MBPD hopes to eventually connect the body cameras of officers to the network, providing even more video feeds as well as a different perspective on situations. This open-ended approach will likely pay off as the department finds new uses for the camera technology.

Staying current
As technology continues to evolve, law enforcement officials must stay current and examine new technologies that provide potential advantages for crime control efforts. Technology can directly improve the response of officers to crimes and other incidents, enhance institutional knowledge and generally increase the effectiveness of many different aspects of policing.

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