Poor quality video doesn’t help cops catch bad guys

Editorial Board • Jun 22, 2018 at 12:07 PM

Readers are accustomed to occasional photos we publish from local law enforcement agencies showing crimes being committed and asking the public’s help in identifying the subjects.

They’re also accustomed, as are we, to images that often are grainy, dark, out of focus and otherwise of little use in making a positive identification.

For instance, we recently published a photo showing two individuals who made entry into a local auto dealership and made off with a new vehicle. Police identified the culprits as two women. Turns out one of them was a man. The picture was properly exposed — a rarity in these sorts of images — but the camera was not well-positioned and showed one of the individuals from behind, a man with a hair bun.

Some of these photos are so bad we’ve given second thought to publishing them, but do so to try to be of assistance to police. But they don’t have to be of such poor quality. Given the available technology, why don’t businesses update their surveillance equipment? It’s a small investment that can pay off in more ways than one.

Usually, the images are taken from video footage, which looks like it was shot with a 20-year-old webcam. And maybe it was. Footage from robberies or holdups released by police is usually so blurry and pixelated that details are virtually nonexistent — something that impedes law enforcement in trying to capture the perpetrators. Better quality surveillance video would make for more effective investigations.

Older systems don’t just use cameras which can’t capture video in high resolution, but they also lack the hard drive or disc space to preserve it. Video of good quality consumes a lot of space. And, rather than use professional expertise to set up systems, some businesses try to do it on the cheap and don’t place cameras where they would be of best use or buy inexpensive equipment. You get what you pay for, and cheaper cameras won’t be as good in producing a still image from video.

We encourage businesses to review their surveillance systems and ensure they are effective and will be of use if their businesses are victimized. Catching the bad guys, hopefully with the goods, helps the business and the police.

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