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Surveillance, social media help law enforcement apprehend criminals

Although it may not be the first thing that comes to mind, social media has made a number of contributions to the efficiency of physical security systems. YouTube, in particular, has helped the private sector and local law enforcement deter crime by apprehending criminals caught on camera.

Surveillance cameras are often considered the foundation of any crime deterrence system but they are only useful if someone sees the footage. If videos are locked up in a dusty back room of an organization, how will local law enforcement agencies identify and find alleged criminals?

Enter: Social media.

A new report by SecurityInfoWatch highlighted the widespread adoption of using YouTube to enhance the effectiveness of video surveillance systems, as a number of police departments around the country are now taking footage from cameras and posting them online. Since more than 800 million users visit YouTube and watch more than 3 billion hours of video each month, the social platform is proving to be an invaluable technology for local law enforcement.

Anne Schwartz, director of communications at the Milwaukee Police Department, said the use of a specific YouTube channel for her department has been very positive, according to SecurityInfoWatch.

"Someone can watch a video on our website or on YouTube and read the entire description and pause it if they want to and really take a good look at it," Schwartz said, according to the news source. "We've solved crimes that way. We've had people that see these videos and then recognize the suspect in that video."

Social surveillance footage may invite controversy
Similar to the use of video surveillance systems in general, publicizing the footage is also introducing concerns regarding people's privacy, SecurityInfoWatch noted. To mitigate these issues, most local law enforcement agencies only post footage from surveillance cameras located in public areas.

Additionally, many authorities also block or blur the faces of innocent bystanders caught in the footage, the news source said. This is the technique taken by the Philadelphia Police Department, which created a YouTube station in 2008 and has had roughly 90 arrests due to the agency's release of more than 250 videos.

"Every face is blurred, except the people that we're looking for," said Frank Domizio, the social media community manager for the Philadelphia Police Department, according to SecurityInfoWatch. "We make it our focus to ensure anonymity. We use a [special program] to edit videos, which lets us blur faces or zoom in on suspects. Any innocent or non-involved person is blurred or edited out of the video."

A separate report by ABI Research forecast the global video surveillance market will generate more than $41 billion in revenue by 2014. In many cases, decision-makers are embracing hybrid or pure IP-based systems, instead of traditional analog solutions, as web-based products enable individuals to access and move footage more easily from one location to another, making the process of posting videos on social media platforms more convenient.

"People and organizations are still buying video security systems, despite the recession," said Stan Schatt, vice president and practice director at ABI Research. "In fact, some large retailers have increased their deployments to counter recession-induced shoplifting."

As more organizations around the world leverage surveillance systems in an effort to enhance the physical protection of confidential resources, decision-makers will likely integrate footage into their social media strategies to make videos public and help local law enforcement authorities locate and apprehend suspected criminals.

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