Murder on Video - The Value of PTZs

By: John Honovich, Published on Mar 03, 2012

While many argue for the end of PTZs, a recent murder demonstrates the value of using PTZs versus multimegapixel fixed cameras for monitoring large high crime areas. Inside this note, we show why through a series of real world surveillance video clips and an analysis of the system's use.

The Raw Video

The police department released segments of the actual surveillance footage. This 90 second video is important to watch to understand the situation and the use of PTZs:

The video is Flash only. If you cannot see it, go to the original page of the video.

At the start of the incident, a PTZ on a pre-programmed tour spots two people walking down the street as shown below:

In the next video segment, on a different camera, the system captures 2 people running down the street:

Now, a 3rd camera shows a person running from two others. There is a person crawling on the floor that appears to be already shot. Note that this camera is being actively controlled by an operator and zoomed in during the time of this clip.

A few moments later with the PTZ zoomed in, the system captures a clear image of a person aiming a gun at another:

15 seconds later, a police car pulls up to the scene and captures the shooter and accomplice:

The whole incident lasts literally just a few minutes.

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The Location

This happened in a housing deveopment / project in Queens NY, shown in the map below:

The complex is long (nearly 3/4rds of a mile) and is densely populated with both buildings and trees, making line of sight difficult.

According to reports, the complex is monitored by the NY Police Department's VIPER program that dedicates police officers to monitor surveillance systems and dispatch responders to threats.

A Surveillance Success

This incident is a clear success story of using surveillance. In the middle of the night with an event that unfolded in minutes, the police were able to identify and respond immediately. The suspects were caught on video in the act and then apprehended moments later. This eliminated the risk of the suspects committing further crimes on the run, the cost of a manhunt and the risk of suspects getting away.

Monitored PTZs Critical

Without PTZs being actively monitored, this incident would almost certainly have turned out far worse. With the large size and complex terrain of the site, megapixel cameras would most likely have captured nothing more than blobs of the suspects. This is especially so at night, where even the best megapixel cameras have no quality / identification advantage over SD cameras. Equally important was the active monitoring of the PTZs. Without this, the suspects would certainly have gotten away and the video evidence of the suspect shooting would not have been captured.

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