More bad PR for municipal video (or is it?)

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05/21/2009
This column in the Philly Daily News is a good window onto how the public sees, and what the public expects of, municipal video systems (about which we've got a special report on our main page right now). Basically, people are upset because a jogger out at 6:45 a.m. on a bridge was mugged and the image captured of the attacker is all grainy and it's hard to make out who he is. Ok, sure, it would be great if the image was clear and we could make out the attacker, but think about that for a second: People are mad because they couldn't get a crystal-clear image of someone at 6:45 a.m., outside, on a bridge? I mean, couldn't they just zoom in one of their magic cameras in space? I think on the one hand, this is bad PR, since the image seems to be unusable, and what's the point of putting cameras up if you can't use the images? But, on the other hand, isn't it a good sign that society now expects there to be a video image of just about anything that happens anywhere? If this jogger had been attacked and there had been no video image at all, would there have been a clamor: Why wasn't there a video camera on the bridge? I think maybe yes, judging by the rest of the article, and it seems like that might be good for business. Also, I love the comment at the bottom: "I have to agree that any cameras installed should produce CLEAR and SHARP images." Well, yeah... I've got to think an article that thinks this kind of investment in security cameras isn't enough is also good for business. Check this out:
On May 12, he says, the agency underwent a massive switchover from analog to fancy digital technology on the existing cameras that survey the area's four bridges and the PATCO train line, allowing DRPA to capture and store more images. The agency will also "phase in" another 220 high-tech cameras throughout the system in 2009, bringing to more than 300 the number of lenses trained on the system's users and infrastructure. Matheussen said that "no less than eight" of those cameras dot the Ben Franklin Bridge. None of them are trained specifically on the walkway, however. Instead, they provide a sweeping view of the walkway, roadway and PATCO line (which runs alongside the bridge) and allow DRPA police to zoom in, pan out and swivel to and fro as needed. As for the quality of the image caught on tape of Weighnecht's attacker, all Matheussen will say is that "we have an image" and that the agency is working with law enforcement on both sides of the river to make an arrest.
Exactly how much money do you want to spend on IP video, columnist? And why is "phase in" in quotes? Do you think they can install all of them simultaneously? Like with a magic wand? In the end, I think these high expectations for video systems are good, as they create an expectation that video will be there, and that it serves a purpose. Living up to those expectations can be hard, but it's worth the effort if it means municipal video becomes virtually universal.

Comments

Unfortunately, everyone's been conditioned by movies like "Enemy of the State" and "Eagle Eye" to think that reading license plates from space is piece of cake. Should be easy to see the unkempt stubble and unsightly poor dental hygiene of a mugger and positively ID said attacker in the early morning light from a measly few hundred yards away, right?

Well, the fact that the public expects everything everywhere to be recorded in HD video is not due to anything the CCTV industry did. It's due to shows like CSI and that one just-paying-some-bills movie with Will Smith and Jon Voight, whaddyacallit. Otherwise, good points.