In four days beginning August 6-10, 2011, London boroughs and England cities were gripped by extensive looting and violence which has come to be known as the London Riots. When the smoke cleared up , more than 1,000 people were arrested and over £200 million in damages were recorded. The arrests and damages notwithstanding, the riots proved two things: the CCTV footages were not sufficient to identify some of the perpetrators because of the unrecognizable images; and there’s a need to install PTZ cameras with higher resolutions capable of zooming to people’s faces to help in post-incidence investigations.
Pan, tilt and zoom
The PTZ camera refers to the capability of the device to pan, tilt and zoom to where the subject is. They are also called camera robotics and Crare greatly used in television production studios. Among the features of the newer PTZ cameras is the auto-tracking option, which means the products come with software that monitors any distortion in the pixel in the footage and actually make the necessary correction. Think of it as the auto-focus function of the ordinary digital still camera.
Obviously, this action plays a substantive role for better identification of culprits in case of theft, robbery or any other criminal activity. It would have been a valuable resource during the London riots where authorities relied more on the footages of mobile phone cameras as evidence to pin down the suspects.
Minimum quality law
The hazy images produced by analog CCTV cameras also prompted a call for a “minimum quality law.” To illustrate, your basic camera phone is five times more powerful than old analog CCTV cameras so even if the establishment will install a hundred such devices around its perimeter, it takes a lot of luck and serendipity to identify the perpetrator from the footage.
It’s understandable , therefore, when Scotland Yard in a 2008 statement said that only three percent of street robberies were prosecuted using old CCTV cameras. In contrast, PTZ cameras have higher resolutions and can zoom to as much as 12x which makes identification much easier.
But government regulators need to define what minimum standard quality is to take out all the noise. More than the crime restraint , a good footage will ensure that no citizen will be unfairly prosecuted on account of mistaken identity. The minimum quality standard will also become the guidepost for manufacturers into enhancing the capabilities of their CCTV or PTZ cameras.