Articles by Kenny Long
The UK government recently announced a doubling of the Safer Streets Fund to £45 million, as it seeks to reassure the public that safety is a top priority, as the night-time economy makes a return. More than just surveillance While this funding increase is much needed, it’s vital that the government and local councils use the money strategically, or risk missing out on a great opportunity to deliver real change and enhance safety across the United Kingdom. One of the main strategies cited by the government is to increase the current vast number of CCTV cameras installed across the country, despite the fact that the UK is already one of the most surveilled nations in the world. Investing in video analytics London alone has around 700,000 cameras, but to effectively monitor them all would be an incredibly inefficient use of manpower and require a huge number of staff. Therefore, I believe the clearest and most cost-effective way for this project to succeed in its overall mission, is by investing in smarter technology, such as video analytics. Incorporating video analytics into existing infrastructure is the clear solution This technology offers a more efficient use of resources, faster response times and enables more informed, time-critical decision making, when reacting to unfolding events in real time. Incorporating video analytics into existing infrastructure is the clear solution, as the technology enables legacy assets, such as analogue CCTV cameras, to become more than just after the fact evidence gathering tools and instead be used to help enhance real-time responses to unfolding incidents. Artificial intelligence-enabled solutions Artificial intelligence-enabled solutions are trained using vast datasets of images and video footage, in order to better understand people, objects and vehicles that are captured on film, and they continue ‘learning’ and improving, while in use. The system’s algorithms analyse and prioritise input from video data to decide which inputs are of value, automatically classifying the footage and notifying security personnel accordingly. This reduces response times by notifying CCTV operators of an incident, as it happens, meaning law enforcement and security personnel can react faster and intervene in an ongoing situation. Edge technology and real-time video streaming A key consideration should be choosing a technology that can operate at the edge and deliver real-time video streaming, even at the lowest bandwidths, so it isn’t limited to use in areas with good connectivity, which would exclude most remote areas. Quality really does matter and technology that can operate over low bandwidths is crucial for allowing operators to zoom in on areas of interest, such as a car number plate or face, and retrieve full-resolution images that can make a real difference in ongoing investigations. Analytics-based security approach Introducing an analytics-based security approach would also help curtail the rising cost of tackling crime Introducing an analytics-based security approach would also help curtail the rising cost of tackling crime. Research conducted by the UK’s Labour Party recently found that the annual cost of crime reached a staggering £100 billion. While statistics show that crime rates in general have been fairly stable over recent years, experts point to the increase in specific types of violent crime, such as knife crime which rose by over 20% during 2020. Implementing smart analytics-based technology Implementing smart analytics-based technology would help maintain staffing costs, as the system can identify incidents without an operator’s input, as well as reducing the cost of managing crime, as more incidents will be intervened in before they escalate too far. This dramatically reduces the burden on staff and allows a single surveillance operator to monitor many more cameras. On the other hand, this level of automation also reduces false alarm fatigue and operator overload, which can quickly sap efficiencies and reduce operator alertness, if left unchecked. Data driven problem-solving approach to crime prevention Procurement officials should avoid the common mistake of simply doubling down and throwing more staff and security assets at the problem to bring results. Instead, they should take a more data driven problem-solving approach to crime prevention by leveraging technologies that can enhance response and preserve their existing investments in cameras. The smart use of real-time video analytics could make the difference by preventing dangerous situations from escalating into serious incidents.
Safety and security have always been primary concerns for those running large events and gatherings, such as at concert venues or football stadiums. However, the Manchester Arena attack of 2017 highlighted that more should be done to protect those visiting these locations. This is the standpoint taken by Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett – one of the 22 victims of the devastating attack. She has been campaigning for the introduction of stronger counter-terror security measures at public venues and has succeeded in gaining government backing for ‘Martyn’s Law’. According to the Home Office, the law would require venues to consider the risk of an attack and take “proportionate and reasonable measures” to protect those in attendance. Murray’s proposal would see increased physical security, such as airport-style metal detectors and scanners, become mandatory for major venues that draw large crowds, as well as training, incident response plans and exercises for staff. The law would seek to tackle the inconsistent nature of security practices currently seen at venues, and bring holistic counter-terror practices to the fore. Introducing airport-style security measures at concert venues isn’t a fix-all solution However, introducing airport-style security measures at concert venues isn’t a fix-all solution. The ecosystem of these locations must be considered and responded to accordingly. Adding extra checkpoints in areas with a high flow of people will not only result in additional queues and disgruntled visitors, but may have more disastrous consequences as large crowds are typically the target of terror attacks. Disruptive security measures may move the mass of people from inside the venue, where people will have had to pass through some form of security – if only just a bag check – to outside the venue, where there are typically no security measures in place. Disrupting threats with enhanced security So, what can be done to enhance the protection of those attending these locations? Investment into technology that can provide an additional layer of security without being intrusive is key, and facial recognition is one such tool. Security teams can use this innovative technology to scan crowds or queues for a sighting of a person of interest, whose biometric data is included on a watch list of known individuals. As well as providing an additional layer of protection, this tool can provide peace of mind for security teams who can monitor those who have not yet entered the venue or are waiting outside. When the facial recognition system identifies a potential match, staff must be prepared to act – as the system will never make the final decision over a person’s fate. They can analyse the picture from the watch list with the video of the individual identified, decide whether the detection was accurate and then interact directly with the person of interest. The level of contact may be as simple as asking for proof of identity and if adequately able to verify who the person is, no further action is needed and any biometric data is removed. Alternatively, it could lead to the acquisition of a known criminal, providing valuable intelligence of any immediate threat. When the facial recognition system identifies a potential match, staff must be prepared to act The real benefit of facial recognition is that response can be proactive as well as reactive, whether it be from fixed surveillance cameras or mobile devices such as body worn cameras. Devices capable of live streaming coupled with analytics such as facial recognition, offer an invaluable surveillance tool, allowing security teams and first responders to react quickly and more effectively to an unfolding situation, all in real-time. Control centre staff are still vital in this circumstance, but are able to work with heightened situational awareness thanks to the live streaming aspect. It allows them to more accurately assess a situation and therefore make decisions based on all of the information at hand, with outcomes that will be far more effective. For example, the information relayed to the emergency services will be more exact in terms of what happened, where and who was involved – rather than being based on fragmented eyewitness accounts. Planning ahead Even though it isn’t yet official, Martyn’s Law is already making waves in the industry – with Manchester City Council pledging to adopt the law early and the security minister, home secretary and prime minister all “100% behind” the proposal. Despite its early stages, operators of concert venues and stadia must start forward planning and enhancing security measures ahead of the government beginning to consult on the law in the spring. Only time will tell what the full legislation will entail, but we can all agree that action is necessary. In order to be as effective as possible, the law should not only mandate metal detectors and bag searches, but technology such as facial recognition and body worn cameras that can work to enhance these other measures and elevate the human response.