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Identifying Rioters Might Be the Best CCTV Can Achieve

Many say it is not living up to its promise to deter crime.

The Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Video Association (LEVA) is helping police in Vancouver, British Columbia, analyze video of the June 15 riot that followed the Vancouver Canucks’ Stanley Cup finals loss.

LEVA has activated its Forensic Video Analysis Response Team to review about 1,600 hours of video evidence and close to a million photographs recorded during the riot. The analysis will include efforts to identify suspects and verify every instance of criminal activity.

On Sept. 26, about 40 LEVA forensic video analysts and technicians from across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom gathered at LEVA’s Digital Multimedia Evidence Processing Lab at the University of Indianapolis to review the video, and the analysis is to continue until Oct. 9, which is a clear indication of the importance Canadian officials are placing on video to identify and capture lawbreakers.

The Vancouver effort reflects an effort by British authorities to indentify those who participated in rioting in London’s Tottenham neighborhood on Aug. 6 and 7 following protests over the shooting death by police of Mark Duggan, a local man.

The real difference in the two efforts is London officials turned to CCTV video of the rioting—one estimate says all the CCTV cameras in the riot areas produced 36 million minutes of footage—while Vancouver officials obtained most of their video evidence from citizens who documented the riot with cameras and cell phones, as well as some video from private CCTV systems.

In a savvy use of the Internet, Vancouver police urged those who shot video of the riot to upload it to a number of websites, a request citizens responded to.

In further use of the Internet, London police have issued photos of suspected rioters on Flickr. However, while some Brits applaud the use of video to identify suspected riot participants, others question the widespread use—and cost—of CCTV, saying it is not living up to its promise to deter crime. But critics of CCTV are not questioning the system’s ability to identify and apprehend possible rioters.

While it is true the massive number of public CCTV cameras in London and the limited number of public CCTV cameras in Vancouver did not stop riots in those cities, the video recorded will likely lead to some rioters having to answer for their actions. Bringing those people to justice might be the best that can be hoped for.