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Texas Town Fights Crime with Police Car Video System

Tyler Police Department to record traffic stops and crimes in progress.

by / April 28, 2004
TYLER, Texas -- The Tyler, Texas Police Department deployed a digital video system that can allow officers to capture video of traffic stops and criminal activity in progress. The system could save the department about $50,000 each year in labor, management and supply costs, according to the police department.

Tyler, Texas has a population of more than 87,000 and covers 52.7 square miles. The city is considered a manufacturing, health-care, educational and retail center of East Texas.

Tyler also plans to add wireless capability to the IBM system, enabling the transmission of live video images from the cruisers to the police department in near real time, according to Police Chief Gary Swindle.

Digital video is thought to be more effective than traditional police car video systems, which are based on analog (videotape) technology. Because analog systems must be activated manually by the police officer, they often fail to capture images of crimes in progress. By contrast, IBM's "in-car" digital video system continuously records images and sound onto a 40 or 60-gigabyte hard drive. When the officer turns on his overhead "pursuit" lights, the previous four minutes of video and audio are saved and recording continues until the officer turns off the system.

Installed in each of the department's 60 cruisers, the IBM in-car solution, using Coban Technologies' Video Mobile Data Terminal (VMDT), will collect data via digital video cameras mounted in the cars as well as from audio microphones worn by the police officers. The data will be fed to ruggedized computer hard drives in the vehicles.

At the end of an officer's shift, he or she will remove the hard drive, bring it into police headquarters, and upload any recorded images into a central data repository capable of storing 4.35 terabytes of data -- the equivalent of nearly one million full-length novels.

IBM can also equip the system with wireless capability to permit near real-time transmission of video images and sound from the police cruisers to police headquarters, using wireless hotspots. Creating a vital visual link between patrol officers and precinct personnel, wireless transmission can help protect the safety of officers and citizens as well as assist in the coordination of police efforts.

The system has other advantages:

-- Authentication enabled -- The system generates unique authentication keys that help discourage tampering with video files.

-- Data aggregated -- Video images can be synchronized with other relevant information, such as speed radar readings, global positioning system data, vehicle telemetry and lightbar (pursuit light) activity.

-- Chain of custody enabled -- At the start of a shift, an officer will check out a hard drive from headquarters by scanning the barcode on the disk into an on-site computer server. The officer will also enter his or her ID number. The process is repeated at the end of the shift. The system keeps a detailed log of hard drive custody.

-- Data retrieval improved -- Users can search massive video databases to more quickly retrieve the precise video clip that's required, which can help reduce management costs. Videos can be searched using combinations of several possible criteria, including officer ID, date, type of violation, location and motorist information.

-- "Shelf life" extended -- Digital video images captured are DVD- or VCD-quality. They are sharper than taped images and can theoretically be stored for longer periods than traditional videotape, which tends to deteriorate more quickly over time.

The repository uses Coban's Digital Video Management System (DVMS), which is designed for flexibility and scalability to serve police departments both large and small. The entire system also includes IBM eServer xSeries servers, IBM Linear Tape-Open storage, Tivoli Storage Manager and IBM services and support.

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Miriam Jones Chief Copy Editor
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