A fish eye security camera

Have you noticed there are cameras everywhere? If not, look around the next time you walk through your neighborhood. You’ll see someone on a smartphone (the most common camera we encounter daily), and you may notice several doorbell cameras. You might also see security cams on houses, dashcams mounted to personal and commercial vehicles, speed cameras on poles in high-traffic areas, and perhaps CCTV cameras inside the local stores. The fact is, whether you notice them or not, cameras are all around us. While phone cameras often act as documentation for funny or meaningful events, the other types of cameras mentioned act primarily as surveillance – that is, keeping an eye on things that are important to us. Today, we want to discuss the rise of video surveillance to explain why courts are seeing more digital evidence than ever before.

Common types of video surveillance.

 We already hit the main types of video surveillance in the opening paragraph, but we decided to go into them a bit more. Many people are familiar with various types of video cameras, but sometimes we aren’t entirely sure of their actual purpose.

  • Smartphones: This one goes without saying because just about everyone has a phone. Thanks to our mobile devices, we have an incredible ability to take photos and videos anywhere, at any time. Most phone footage is silly, fun, , but sometimes they can catch confrontations as well.
  • Doorbell Cams: As you would imagine, given the name, doorbell cams are cameras mounted at your door. Doorbell cams are popular because they are affordable and can be used to look back on who has been near your property, see visitors even when you are not home, and deter criminals from breaking in or stealing packages.
  • Security Cams/CCTV: Security cameras have been around for quite some time, though they have recently become more popular with residential properties. Outdoor security cameras record the exterior of buildings to track who comes in and out, passes by, or loiters near the entrances.. Indoor security cameras protect the interior of the building to watch entrances, valuables, points of sale, emergency exits, etc. Indoor cams can allow owners to see what is happening within their facility at any point in time.
  • Dashcams: Dashcams are mounted inside vehicles to record what’s happening in and around them. Dashcams always face front but can also record inside the vehicle and behind. Dashcams are usually installed in non-police vehicles to record in case of break-ins or accidents.
  • Speed Cams: If you’re in a high-traffic area, you might have speed cameras. These are usually located near schools, crosswalks, or dangerous intersections to monitor the speed of passing vehicles and let drivers know if they need to slow down.
  • Plate Readers: Most toll booths are gone and have been replaced with plate reader cams. These cameras record all passing vehicle license plates to send tolls by mail. In cases of crimes, these cameras can also be used to track the movement of a vehicle of interest.
  • Bodycams: Bodycams are worn by Law Enforcement to record their interactions while on duty. These cameras can be used as court evidence and keep police accountable for their actions.

What’s the purpose of all these cameras?

A doorbell camera

Clearly, there are many types of video surveillance cameras available. Why are they so popular, and what benefits are they offering? In short, cameras provide people with a feeling of security (no pun intended) because there are always eyes on their most valuable assets. In emergencies, when you may be too panicked to take in your environment, cameras are your eyes that save the entire event to look back on to figure out what happened and who did it. Video surveillance is a security blanket that we hope never to need. No one wants to be in a car accident, have something stolen from their business, or deal with vandalism. However, in the event these things happen, everyone wants to be prepared.

Improvements in technology that attribute to the rise of surveillance.

So, why has there been a rise in video surveillance? The main reason is the development of technology. Years ago, it simply wasn’t an option to record your property in case of emergency. Now that the technology is readily available, it’s becoming something many homeowners and business owners implement. Additionally, year after year, the technology continues to improve to make the cameras more worthwhile. If you watch video evidence footage from crimes in the 70s, you’ll be met with a grainy mess of an image that didn’t help much in identifying criminals. Now, cameras can zoom in, stabilize images, automatically transcribe conversations, etc.

Thanks to the popularity of technology and surveillance appliances, this better technology is also more affordable. Video is no longer new, and producing top-quality cameras doesn’t cost a fortune. Therefore, manufacturers are able to sell security systems for a lower price. Families that previously couldn’t afford to protect their homes now can, and they are jumping at the chance. The other big player in surveillance footage is the cloud. People can save hundreds of hours of footage on the cloud rather than on physical tapes and DVDs. Cloud storage is far cheaper and longer-lasting than old methods, meaning video is saved regularly and does not have to record over itself and risk destroying evidence of a crime.

Video in court. 

Video surveillance of a hallway

Because we are seeing such a rise in video surveillance, the courts have seen an increase in video evidence presented at trials. As mentioned before, it’s hard to argue with video, so it’s a reliable exhibit. Tools like digital evidence management systems make it possible to playback video in court without wheeling in the ancient TV and VCR, plugging in multiple devices, or relying on flash drives. Cloud storage allows videos to be played from a single device to introduce valuable evidence in court efficiently. Systems like Vault even allow sharing of files without downloading or exporting them, meaning the footage is not removed from evidence, thus improving the chain of custody.  Prosecutors, Judges, Self-Represented Litigants, and Defense Attorneys use surveillance videos in all types of cases. Justice is being served more efficiently thanks to the hard-to-dispute nature of video evidence collected by the cameras that surround us.

A quick Google search will bring up hundreds of thousands of results for cases involving video evidence over just the last few decades. Video is being used in various capacities for both sides of the bench in a criminal case, and for either party in civil cases. Because of the prevalence of cameras, we’re moving towards a trend of more cases having video evidence than not. Courts need a system like Vault to make it possible to manage said video evidence, share it securely, and call it up in court. The incredible videos we have access to are only useful if they can be submitted and displayed to the court. The jury and/or judge need to see the footage in order to make conclusions, and not all courtrooms are equipped with a wide variety of AV equipment for playing back the many forms video can come in. By instead uploading to Vault, just about any video file can be viewed from a single device without the need for downloading or exporting. Simply plug in the device, run the program, and view videos (and other digital evidence) in just a few clicks.

We look forward to all future advancements to see where surveillance and digital evidence go from here. For more information about digital evidence management, please get in touch with i3 Verticals today.

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