Information Technology and Surveillance Investigations
Information technology is the wave of the future when it comes to new trends in investigation surveillance. Information technology, which involves the development, maintenance and use of computer systems, software and networks for the processing and distribution of data, is integral in many of the advanced technologies available to law enforcement, businesses and investigation companies. Three investigation surveillance areas that have seen dramatic information technology advances recently include 3D laser scanning, black box recording and remote surveillance technology.
A 3D scanner collects data that can be used to create digital three-dimensional models. Three-dimensional face recognition uses 3D sensors to capture information used to identify distinctive features of a person’s face such as their nose, chin and eyes. One advantage with 3D facial recognition is that it can identify a face from a range of viewing angles including a profile view. This technology can greatly enhance surveillance investigations.
The black box or event data recorder (EDR) is an electronic sensor installed in a motor vehicle that records technical information about a vehicle’s operational performance for a few seconds immediately prior to and during a crash. The black box is now mandatory in all new vehicles. It assists insurance companies with piecing together driving circumstances in the event of an accident. According to a January 7, 2014 article on Inquisitr.com, “Less time will be spent sorting through drivers trying to cover up their calling, texting, or eating habits behind the wheel, because the device won’t lie.”
Susan LaBar, a risk manager for the bus company Coach USA/Megabus, talked about this topic at the Risk and Insurance Management Society conference in Denver. In the June issue of Claims Journal, Denise Johnson wrote about the presentation. “Used to monitor vehicles, GPS and black boxes can be programmed to provide tire and off route alerts, according to LaBar. In addition, she said they can help verify whether or not a bus was in an area that a claimant claims an accident occurred. She added that buses outfitted with surveillance cameras can document hop-ons, claimants who hop on to a bus after a crash and claim an injury.”
Remote surveillance technology has greatly benefited from developments in information technology. For example, The Washington Post published an article earlier this year about surveillance pictures taken from an airplane flying two miles above an area. The technology uses cameras mounted on a fixed-wing aircraft which has shown to be far more useful intelligence than that gathered by police helicopters. This method maps a location over time which has been useful in solving crimes. According to the article, “As Americans have grown increasingly comfortable with traditional surveillance cameras, a new, far more powerful generation is being quietly deployed that can track every vehicle and person across an area the size of a small city, for several hours at a time. Although these cameras can’t read license plates or see faces, they provide such a wealth of data that police, businesses and even private individuals can use them to help identify people and track their movements.”
While this investigation technology can be used to reduce crime, many say this is an infringement of privacy. According to the Washington Post, “Courts have put stricter limits on technology that can see things not visible to the naked eye, ruling that they can amount to unconstitutional searches when conducted without a warrant.” However, as the courts struggle to apply old precedents to new technologies, an overwhelming majority of Americans support video surveillance cameras. A Washington Post poll found that only 14 percent of those surveyed wanted fewer cameras in public spaces.”
As progress is made in the field of information technology with ever increasing amounts of data being stored on smaller storage devices, new and effective surveillance methods will continue to gain momentum. As the trend continues, it will be interesting to watch how the future of surveillance investigations unfolds.
Alliance Risk Group has recently added a high-tech video surveillance tool to its investigative arsenal. For more information, view our video here.