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Protection Money

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday,  a customer asked if I could visit his kiosk to help him take out  CCTV footage for the police.

The day before, he explained, 2 men had come into his shop  whilst he was out.  These two men explained to the shop assistant that they had decided to take kr 1000 per week as protection money.   If the shop didn’t pay, then these two characters  “couldn’t be responsible for anything bad” that happened after that.  The assistant remained really cool and just kept saying that the boss wasn’t here and that they would have to talk to him.  The leader of these two then suggested that the assistant should pay kr 1000 from the till now and that would be the start of their contract.

To give the shop assistant full credit he was really calm and repeated that they needed to speak to the boss.  In the end he picked up his phone and said he was going to call the boss. The two men decided to leave at this point.

You might think this story belongs in 1940’s Chicago and not our Wonderful Copenhagen in 2010.  The police found out that these  men had visited several shops up and down Haroldsgade.  When I reviewed the CCTV images of the two men, they were excellent quality.  One hid his face with a hood on the way in but stupidly took it off on the way out. There were really clear images of both men and I guarantee that if you knew them, you would recognize them.  My finger itched to just upload this video to YouTube but with the consequences being as severe as 4 months in prison or a 30000 kroner fine, I just couldn’t. The police will take the CD we made, review the images and then place the physical CD in a folder for possible review later (yes, it is that old-fashioned).   If we’re lucky they might know one of the men from past crimes.  With past experience, nothing much will be achieved and the shop keeper will probably hear nothing from the police again.  If he doesn’t pay up when the two guys return, what’s going to happen to his shop? Maybe they will drive by at night and smash the windows causing endless hassle and higher insurance premiums.  Depending on the criminal, the damage could be worse yet.

When I tell people I know about this they react with disbelief and if you are thinking this is an isolated incident, think again.  I have another customer, a bar in Nørrebro where they pay kr 400 per week to protect them when it comes to that time of night when they cash out.  A guy comes to stand in the bar and make sure nobody tries to steal their takings.  This ‘service’ isn’t optional for the owner.  He explained that he risks damage to the shop if he doesn’t pay.

I wish, really wish, we could use all of these social networking tools at our disposal today to propagate images of criminals and videos of their crimes. The law regarding usage of video material is antiquated and actually helpful to criminals;  the more incognito they are, the more easily they can carry on their business.

Geovision Facial Detection

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Geovision’s facial detection feature is a handy tool now but could become the best thing since sliced bread with the addition of biometric recognition.

As usual, the highest technological advancements in video analytics come down from military or ultra high-end (read ultra high cost) systems.  Geovision now supports a range of analytics as an inclusive part of it’s software.  This applies to the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) cards that sit inside a computer and take images from analogue cameras to the total NVR (Network Video Recorder) software that runs just network cameras.

Their range of analytics includes, facial detection, objects missing, crowd detection, scene stabilization, images enhancements, people counting, Pan Tilt and Zoom object tracking and a few more to boot.  Not all of these can be applied to smaller businesses but some can be invaluable.

The facial detection function is really smart and we have just activated it for 2 cameras at a busy nightclub in Copenhagen.

How it Works

Setting up the camera is all important.  In order for the system to detect faces correctly, that area should be fairly well illuminated and the faces should fill approximately 10% of the screen.  The camera we used was a Geovision day/night IP camera with a 1.3 megapixel resolution.  Here, in my view, the higher resolution really comes into its own. The camera has a vari-focal lens which means that it can be zoomed into the area you want to monitor and we chose a narrow space where everyone had to pass through on exiting.  For the shot of when the customers enter we chose an existing lower resolution analogue camera with 480 TVL (Television Lines).

The results are fantastic.  Every single face that passes by is detected and snapped into a log file.  You can see a mug shot view of all the faces that exited the club in half hour periods.  If you double click on a face it will take you directly to the video sequence (paused) when that face was detected.  the doormen have a busy job some nights with pickpockets or troublemakers.  Sometimes it can take forever to find the point where that person came in or out.  Now, although there are a lot of faces still, the task is easier and much more refined.

The Geovision day/night camera gives excellent pictures in color when there is enough light, then will change to black and white when the light level reduces. Provided there is some light, a good sharp facial picture can be extracted.  If two people are walking together it will extract both faces.

Now, I am musing over what can be done with this feature if the faces could be compared to a database.   Using my nightclub as an example, banned customers who try to come in again would be instantly flagged.  Employees entering the building can be registered as to when they start work.  There are many applications.

So it can’t be too long before those faces can be compared to a database. Come on Geovision! Pull your finger out.

Theft by employees and the effect of CCTV

February 25, 2010 Leave a comment

According to a survey from Det Kriminalpræventive Råd (Crime Prevention Advisory Board), 20% of employees have stolen large things from their employers and one-third have stolen office supplies in some form or other.  So when you are sitting on the bus looking around at 50 passengers, 10 of those could well have left-over stock, computer equipment or a piece of furniture tucked under their shirts along with a another 16 (Not sure if it’s the same people and I am sure there is an overlap) of them with paper clips, pens, photocopy paper, printer ink and so on in their bags.

http://www.dkr.dk/det_kriminalpraaventive_raad/aktuelt/2009/hver_femte_stjaaler_fra_arbejdspladsen/composite-779.chtm

In my experience of selling CCTV systems to companies, employee theft can range from something simple like taking empty bottles for the refunds through to complicated schemes and scams run by teams of bartenders.  How they do it is a subject for another post altogether.

The point is, in my view, that those that do it don’t think it is harming the company.  After all, what harm does a single bartender or waiter taking home an extra 150 kroner. No-one’s going to notice that on a busy night are they?  The fact is that if there are 8 waiters and bartenders working on a night and they all decide to do it that’s kr 1200 a night pure profit that’s disappeared from the bottom line or about kr 400,000 a year.  The owner can’t understand why he’s not doing better because the place is busy every night and quite possibly his stock control systems are a little inaccurate or behind.  I have been told by a large store in Copenhagen that 2 professional size ovens were stolen from their warehouse by employees.  Other stories include pallets of laptops, huge amounts of cash and even an entire truckload of inventory. One customer, a hairdresser, was losing bottles of expensive shampoo and conditioner every single day from her stock room.

It is estimated that 1.24% of Denmark’s retail sales is stolen by employees; a term often called shrinkage for obvious reasons. The European average is 1.23%.  This was according to figures from 2007 so a little out of date but poignant none the less.

Can CCTV prevent these thefts?  In my experience, absolutely.  I have installed systems in some shops where the owner has  insisted his  turnover rose as much as 5% after cameras were placed over the cash register.   Others have said that their employees asked for raises as they couldn’t maintain the same lifestyle once they could no longer steal. Employees will think twice about taking money from the till and putting in their pockets.  Also, with systems being configurable and operable over the internet, employees never really know when someone might be watching.  An employer no longer has to stand in the shop to review recordings.  This is now possible remotely  from a notebook,  Iphone, Blackberry or Windows Mobile.  The company that had a problem with theft of empty bottles caught the culprit within a few days of putting up a camera.  This was also after informing all staff that there was now CCTV installed.  It is one thing that does puzzle me slightly.  After employees are told that a CCTV system has been installed and they are now under surveillance, some employees still steal right in front of the camera.

Linking up a POS (point of sale) system to the cameras is also now possible.  Using this technology, searches can be made for  key words such as ‘no sale’  (a button where the till can be opened without a sale being made) and review the accompanying video.  On the same basis it is possible to see what items were placed on the counter and exactly what items were entered into the register.

There is a negative side to installing CCTV in the work place.  Staff can view the installation of cameras as a breach of their rights, a sign that they are not trusted or just plain irritating.  So this decision and action to install a system has to be handled with diplomacy and discretion.  There are , as you would expect, laws regarding the surveillance of employees in Denmark. Here is an excellent document explaining the law regarding CCTV issued by the Justice Ministry (only in Danish, I’m afraid). Look to page 14 for specific about surveillance in the workplace.

http://www.datatilsynet.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/dokumenter/Publikationer/Pjece_om_tv-overvaagning.pdf

I would recommend that if you are going to install a system at your business, talk to your employees first and explain why you want to set cameras up and that it isn’t just to spy on them.  A good and very reasonable explanation can be that it is for own their security and safety.  It is necessary in some cases to make an addition to their contract especially if the areas under surveillance are not customer areas.

As a last point, CCTV in the workplace, providing it is visible, is a proven deterrent against shoplifters, robberies and employee theft.  A lot of my customers tend to have the majority of cameras visible and a couple of covert ones.  And don’t forget, if you have a CCTV system, spend some time actually looking at recordings.  You might be surprised at what you find.

An Example of Something Rotten

February 22, 2010 2 comments

I have a customer, a large business in Copenhagen with 20 cameras.  (A mix between older analogue and the very latest network cameras operated by a Geovision real-time recording card…(pauses)..in case you wanted to know).

They are busy and take a lot of cash payments.   One morning at 4.00 a.m., two masked men broke in, stole the CCTV system (That was securely placed behind lock and key), two other computers they thought might be connected to the CCTV system,  and about 1,000,000 kroner in cash from the safe.  They knew where the key to the safe was kept  (so obviously someone with inside information).  If they hadn’t know this information, they would never have found the key.  The thieves took their time.   Unbeknown to them we had recently installed a separate, covert surveillance system to watch the actual CCTV system due to unexplained outages.  This system was untouched and provided exceptional images of the two men with very distinguishing features.

The police were given the evidence and informed as to what had happened.  As of now, 3 months after the event, the police have not asked a single member of staff a single question.  The video of the this robbery is, more likely than not, lying in a folder somewhere gathering some dust.  The manager of this business is exasperated.  On the one hand, he would like to call a journalist and give them the story but his corporate hands are tied in that regard.    He just cannot understand why the police have done nothing at all.  The video recording which, of course, he has a copy of, could have/could be used to identify the two criminals.

What can he do now?  Your instant reaction would be to catch these men and post the video clip on YouTube but, as a goldsmith in Århus found out, this is against the law in Denmark.

http://www.dr.dk/Nyheder/Indland/kriminalitet/2008/02/18/222120.htm

The goldsmith experienced a violent robbery, placed the video surveillance clips on YouTube and  the TV station TV2 decided to show excerpts from the clip on national television.  The criminals were caught as a direct result of these clips being shown and viewers recognizing the criminals.  The really ironic part is that the police chief from East Jutlands police force is quoted as saying ‘Before, we said it was good that TV 2 showed the images.’  So we might have been facing a situation where the real victim of the crime, the goldsmith, was actually arrested by the police force who thought what he did was the right and helpful thing.

Here’s  another similar case against Coolshops, who posted video evidence on their web site following the seventh break-in.

http://www.nordjyske.dk/aalborg/forside.aspx?ctrl=10&data=28,2666748,5,3&count=1

If you do it, be prepared for a possible kr 10,000 fine and up to 4 months in prison.  The law says that only the police can send evidence onwards for publication elsewhere.

The law in Danish can be found here: http://www.datatilsynet.dk/lovgivning/persondataloven/

And in English here: http://www.datatilsynet.dk/english/the-act-on-processing-of-personal-data/

Look to Section 6A for the relevant details on video surveillance .  I can see possible loop holes with regard to warning signs stating that if you enter the premises you agree to your images being used for whatever reason.  Coolshops had these signs and eventually the court saw sense.

http://www.computerworld.dk/art/48338

Ironically, yet again, Coolshops won the case based on the fact that it wasn’t actually possible to recognize the culprit anyway and not because of their creative warning signs.

I agree with Coolshops director, Jacob Risgaard, that the law is absurd and I feel it should be changed with regard to CCTV images of criminal activity.  The police are understaffed to cope with these ‘smaller’ crimes.   We might not recognize a criminal by a slightly grainy CCTV image but his mother or his father or his work colleagues would.  Let’s use the power of this web generation to catch these criminals.  Let’s just make it that bit harder to get away scot-free.

Let’s have a relaxing of this law for video demonstrating clearly criminal acts.  There could be a provision that the one being filmed has the right to file a complaint with the police if  he/she feels it is unfair; thereafter providing details of their address, social security number and a signed confession.

I am all for the right to privacy but if you decide to commit a crime then it is absolutely absurd that the evidence of this crime can not be used, in any way, to catch you.

So back to my question of ‘What can he do now?’.  Well right now, legally, nothing.

Categories: Opinion

Geovision IP 1.3 Megapixel Day/Night Cameras

September 11, 2009 2 comments

I have just had the pleasure of installing 4 of these cameras along with a new server running a GV1240-16 Geovison DVR card.  Utilizing Geovision cameras means that I can expand the system to 24 cameras without having to add an addition 16 camera card.  I was interested to know if these cameras could really deliver considering they are quite a bit more expensive that the standard high res analogue cameras we normally use.

The promise of wide angle and 4 times the resolution was definitely a factor here.  Before ordering I tried to find example video online.  There was nothing.  Plenty on You tube from other manufacturers though, just not Geovision.  I did write to Geovision and they kindly provided some footage from their Taiwanese showroom but this was under full lighting conditions and nothing that demoed the day/night capabilities.

My customer wanted something that provided more detail in low light conditions and that could provide a secure backup to another location at the same time.  They plan to gradually switch out the old analogue to the new IP based cameras over the next 12 – 24 months.

The build quality is excellent for these cameras and the housing is very sturdy.

I have 2 minor criticisms.  Firstly, we were ceiling mounting so the flat coin sized screw had to be taken from the base and switched to the side as the cable were to run out of the base and up into the ceiling.  This screw is silver and not the same color as the housing.  Shame.

Secondly, when the camera is to be mounted in this way, the network cable has to be bent over on itself and pushed between a circuit board to get back inside the camera and out of the base.  This just seemed a little poor design wise.  Other than those two minor points, the cameras are easy to install.

Categories: Product Reviews