Many would agree video surveillance has more and more encroached on privacy, capturing folks walking to their car, purchasing a garment or a lottery ticket at a convenient store.
But while a good portion of that film is likely documenting the mundane, it’s also enabling Akron law enforcement to be more swift and timely in its pursuit of criminal activity.
In September, the Akron Police Department announced its adoption of a new training and technology program, Digital Imaging Video Response Team (DIVRT), which along with the high-tech training of officers, includes kits to gather more efficiently video from surveillance cameras near crime scenes.
“It’s a faster way to get the message out to the general public,” said Lt. Rick Edwards, a police information officer with the department. “And local media loves it; they don’t have to send a photographer because they can just pull our videos right from Facebook.”
Late in 2011, seven Akron police officers traveled to Philadelphia for specialized DIVRT training from its police department, which also employs the program, and from the FBI.
In a press release, Akron Police Chief James Nice said: “What people do not realize is that the average person is captured on surveillance 72 times a day by private businesses and home video cameras. There are literally video cameras everywhere in the city and the more images we get out to the public, and the faster we get them out there, the better our chances of solving the crimes.”
DIVRT’s technology lets police tap into existing surveillance cameras, create their own video and release it within hours using email, Facebook and Twitter.
Before DIVRT, Edwards says, obtaining surveillance video may have involved going through time-consuming channels such as getting corporate approval to access videos, staging a press conference or waiting for the actual video to be produced in a timely manner.
Two videos released to local media in the spring netted the identification and arrests of suspects not long after, according to Edwards. In one case, Edwards said a young woman was robbed during a late night ATM bank withdrawal. Using DIVRT, police used part of the bank’s video. The next day the suspect was arrested.
“With the ATM robbery, we had had more than 4,600 hits on the video, and a relative identified the suspect,” Edwards said. During the summer, NBC Nightly News broadcast a segment on the FBI and the Akron and Philadelphia police departments, showcasing the success of DIVRT.
Police have partnered DIVRT with Akron’s 311 Call Center to further enhance its scope of crime prevention.
Residents and businesses at no cost can register their surveillance equipment by calling the center. And Edwards assures that those who do will only be contacted by police when there is a crime committed in the vicinity of their camera.
For example, if a business has six cameras positioned outside, police can use a pin map where a crime was committed in relation to those cameras, saving them some footwork, Edwards said. “And it’s a benefit to the home or business owner,” he added.