Undercover police detectives in DeKalb, Ga., are using an IP-based video surveillance and capture system installed inside a mobile unit in order to stop criminals in their tracks, said Daniel McLeod, president of CrimePoint, the company that built out the system. Specifically, the company is a systems integrator as well as a manufacturer of surveillance video and vehicle systems.

“DeKalb detectives are using the IP complete surveillance vehicle package,” he said. “It converts an analog system, or it is a new installation of a complete IP system into new surveillance vans in which all of the equipment is controlled and monitored through network connections.”

McLeod said CrimePoint introduced IP technology to the surveillance-van market in 2007 with the nation's first fully Internet-controlled vehicle, with the ability to not only monitor but also operate the camera's motion from any Web-enabled computer.

Det. Tim Donahue of the DeKalb County (Ga.) Police Department currently uses such a vehicle. Before the upgrade, his department employed an analog video system that used VCRs, which he said was outdated and problematic because the VHS tapes deteriorated over time — meaning evidence captured on the tapes disappeared as well. Digital video–capture systems last longer and are supported by cameras that get higher-quality pictures of suspects and higher-quality audio of activities police are monitoring, Donahue said.

The mobile platform is inconspicuous, but Donahue didn’t give further details for security reasons. But, he did share that the vehicle “is flexible as far as where you can deploy it because it’s just a vehicle and it doesn’t draw attention.” On the roof is a camouflaged CrimePoint covert camera that can rotate 360 degrees and capture real-time video of a suspect’s face from nearly 300 feet away.

“It works a lot better than the last system,” he said. “Our old platform had a periscope, and you could only spin it 350 degrees before the cables would get tangled up. Another benefit of this new system is that I can spin this camera around all day long, and there is nothing to get tangled up — which is good because people are moving around [in the vehicle] and you don’t want to have to mess with cables.”

Video can be recorded through three different paths, but Donahue only uses two at any given time. He uses a Windows-based PC with a 500 GB hard drive that constantly records and a Panasonic DVR with a 160 GB hard drive that “still hasn’t come close to filling up,” he said. The DVR has a DVD burner, so he can record the video on scene and hand it off to the case agent.

Communications and video from the vehicle can be transmitted through Wi-Fi, encrypted or non-line-of-sight radios, or the Internet using the cellular network, McLeod said. For the DeKalb deployment, Internet access inside the vehicle was made available so officer in the field could record data and share it with other team members, who can log in to a secure Web site to monitor video or pictures can be sent directly to officers’ Blackberries or smartphones.

“During an incident a rescue team often doesn’t know what they are walking in to … and they don’t have real-time information,” he said. “This way, in real time, they can receive snapshots on their mobile devices, and as they go around the corner, they know what to expect.”