BOSTON — Just as previous deadly attacks have served to raise awareness for electronic security measures, the Boston Marathon bombing has refocused attention on the role public video surveillance can play in identifying and apprehending perpetrators.
“The way it was solved so very quickly is quite amazing,” says Kurt Will, president of St. Louis-based Will Electronics. “Boston law enforcement obtained so much high quality video, so rapidly, the public is saying, ‘You know what? These cameras can serve all kinds of purposes.’”
For security professionals, one of the most important factors to be underscored by the Boston tragedy is the role public-private partnerships can serve in deploying municipal video surveillance systems and for other public spaces. Installing security contractors especially have an important function to play in educating civic and public-venue end users, as well as taking a lead role in helping pull together city officials and other stakeholders to create and sustain momentum for security projects, Will explains.
Fostering public-private partnerships took on a heightened significance following the Boston event for Will, who had been organizing a municipal surveillance expo prior to the twin blasts on April 15. The expo, held in late May, featured St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson discussing how citywide surveillance programs can be invaluable in supporting law enforcement efforts. Other panelists included corporate security directors, real estate developers, business consultants and a representative from VMS provider Genetec.
Will Electronics’ public surveillance work has included the installation of a camera system for the St. Louis Port Authority near the Mississippi River. Phase 2 of the project was undertaken in the past year, with a call for additional cameras by private entities following the Boston bombing. The project will form a common network out of cameras operated by a host of entities, including the city’s street department, the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, and other business districts.
The security system, which will be monitored by the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, would furnish police with tablet computers and software allowing officers to view any of the cameras on the network. As in other communities around the nation, expanding public surveillance will be contingent upon, in large part, identifying funding sources.
“We are trying to get the public-private partnership moving along. Like most cities, St. Louis doesn’t have any money to do this. They are trying to find a way to pay for this,” Will says.
According to IMS Research, recent terrorism events such as the one in Boston have led it to update its current projections for global spending on video surveillance equipment. The research firm had previously projected that worldwide revenue for analog and network equipment would rise to $20.5 billion in 2016, up 114% from $9.6 billion in 2010.
“While it’s too early to tell exactly what impact the Boston bombing will have, past events [like it] have led to increased government spending on video surveillance for public spaces, particularly in the transport sector,” says Paul Everett, senior manager, video surveillance, for IMS.
One example of the Boston event affecting security expenditures nationwide is in South Florida where Aware Digital is helping a law enforcement agency move forward with a plan to bring together many different surveillance resources in a central manner.
“It’s being driven by the Boston concept,” says Josh Mann, CEO of Aware Digital, a systems integration firm that also provides a wide range of technology solutions to law enforcement at the local, state and federal level. “The need is to be able to quickly have access to video to establish virtual perimeters or establish ways for police to retroactively view video forensically from different entities or groups, both public and private.”
The intense manhunt for the culprits in Boston — and the immediate inundation of images and video from bystanders and surveillance cameras — was the first event of its kind to unfold on TV in real-time, Mann suggests. It essentially created a newfound awareness for the potential value of crowd sourcing personal video and still images.
“That is the future. This event played out in a bidirectional communication between law enforcement and the public, aided by social media, and it worked well,” Mann says. “People felt like they were doing something beneficial to help the greater good.”
The addition of crowd-sourced data will only further heighten the need for public-private joint ventures to leverage technology and shared resources, Mann says.
“There is definitely a trend going in the right direction. Especially after Boston, other cities are going to want that program to bring cameras to a centralized place where they can get that video more easily than having to go knock on the door of the gas station and say, ‘Let me see your video or your DVR.’ ”