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Posts Tagged ‘Digital Media Evidence’

Can CCTV Systems Help Crisis Management in Mass Shootings?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

As school and mass shootings become more prevalent in today’s society, the question of “How do we prevent this?” is on everyone’s mind. While gun control is the first topic people tend to address when discussing these acts of terror, there is another side to the story that may aide in minimizing the total lives lost in these situations sooner than a gun control reform can. One of the most important purposes of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) video recordings is to secure a predetermined area using video cameras connected to a video recorder, which in turn creates the video surveillance footage (evidence). By using modern technology to allow 911 dispatchers access to these surveillance cameras in emergency situations, we would be allowing the dispatchers to give the first responders accurate, real-time information.

 

So, what can we do? Yes, there are changes that need to be made in not only our society, but in the world as a whole. But, what can we do right now to minimize the total amount of lives lost when the next mass shooting takes place? What can we do to catch these shooters before more damage is caused? How can we aid first responders and investigators in completing their jobs to the best of their abilities with the best resources possible? In short, we use modern technology to monitor and take control of the situation efficiently and accurately.

 

History of Mass Shootings

While mass shootings are becoming more frequent (an average of 7 mass shootings a week in 2017, CNN), they are not new to our culture. The FBI defines a “mass murder” as 4 or more victims in a single incident. The first heavily recorded United States mass murder occurred in September of 1949. Howard Unruh took the lives of 13 people and injured 3 more in the neighborhood of Cramer Hill in Camden, New Jersey. Since that fateful day, the United States has become the country with one of the highest mass shooting rates. Between 1966 and 2018, there have been 150 mass shootings totaling in 1,077 lives lost. Prior to the 1966 shooting at the University of Texas where 18 lives were lost and 30 people were injured, there were 25 mass shootings from the year 1910. Little is known about these early 20th century killings. Twelve of the deadliest shootings have occurred since 2000, with the deadliest occurring just last year in Las Vegas, Nevada where 58 lives were lost and 500 people were injured at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.

 

CCTV and Modern Technology

CCTV surveillance became widely available in the 1970s. There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States. In 2009, Chicago became the “most watched city in the nation” when it linked its estimated 10,000 surveillance cameras with their 911 dispatch center. When a call to 911 comes in, a dispatcher can view a live video of the crime scene as long as it is within 150 feet of a surveillance camera. In the years since Chicago took this initiative, several cities and school districts have followed suit. In 2011, Atlanta, Georgia police began monitoring 100 of the cities surveillance cameras. Atlanta Public Schools gave access to their surveillance cameras to 911 dispatchers in 2014. In 2013, Howard County, Maryland also linked their schools surveillance systems with 911 dispatchers. Near our lab in Rochester Hills, MI, Macomb County is in the process of allowing the Macomb County’s Communications and Technology Center, also known as COMTEC, to gain access to the surveillance systems of all 21 of its school districts.

How does this help in the event of a mass shooting? By 911 dispatchers having access to live surveillance footage, they are able to provide first responders with accurate and efficient information. This will then allow the first responders to draft a “plan of attack” that will quickly eliminate the threat so more lives can be saved. Often, in the midst of a mass shooting, 911 dispatchers receive multiple calls with misinformation. Calls stating multiple shooters are present, the location of the shooter that is not accurate, and even that the shooter has left the premises when they in fact have not. With this technology, the dispatcher will be able to quickly see what information received via inbound calls is accurate and what is not.

Surveillance footage is not only helpful during the event, but during the investigation as well. Often, after these tragedies, questions and stories arise of what exactly happened. This is when both CCTV footage and Good Samaritan footage play an integral role. Even if the footage is garbled, pixelated, or otherwise unclear, audio and video forensic experts can enhance the footage so the truth of what transpired can be revealed.

 

So, what can you do?

Talk to your schools principals, district superintendents, local law enforcement, city and state officials, news outlets, local business and neighbors. Educate them about the importance of CCTV technology and how it can help in emergency situations. Educate yourself on what steps to take if you or a loved one find yourselves in the midst of a mass shooting. Get involved in discussions, don’t sit on the sidelines. Express the importance of alternative solutions to the gun control law regulations and/or political arguments. The solutions expressed in this article are simple to understand and easy to express from the lay persons perspective. You may even find yourself having a conversation with an expert that would find this information valuable.

20: Body-worn Cameras with Sgt. Bill Tilson

Monday, April 27th, 2015

police body camerasSgt. Bill Tilson is a police officer with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He has been working in the department since September 2002 and began working with body-worn cameras in 2012 when the department began issuing them to officers. He received a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice and Corrections from Lewis-Clark State College and an Associates degree in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Administration from the College of Southern Idaho.

Sgt. Tilson has seen first hand the benefits of body-worn cameras in law enforcement and has been a major part of their integration into the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. He has also dealt with many of the struggles that police departments are facing with the large amount of video that is being captured by these body cameras.

Now listen in with Ed Primeau and Sgt. Bill Tilson as they discuss the benefits of body-worn cameras, the issues with storing the video, chain of custody procedures, and Federal standards for maintaining the video evidence.

photo credit: USCP4.NSM.Rally.USCG.WDC.19apr08 via photopin (license)

18: Creating Video Work Product as an Audio Video Forensic Expert

Friday, February 27th, 2015

video work productVideo work product is a way to document forensic investigations, like evidence recovery, for reference at a later date. Processes and procedures are documented using a video camera by a forensic expert during a forensic investigation for future use. I have referred back to my video work product many times during the course of a case when I have questions later in the evolution of the case. There are a few different digital video recording platforms that I use when creating ‘video work product’. Each one of these types of systems serves a certain purpose in assisting with a forensic investigation as well as the investigative process.

I personally use the VIEVU LE2 and LE3 body worn cameras. My main use for this body camera in my investigations is recording my forensic process in the field. This includes retrieving evidence from different systems so I can review the video later and include in my report to support the authenticity of my work product and any evidence used in the case.

Another type of digital video camera that I use to produce video recordings is a HDSLR photography camera. In some investigations, a single video recorded perspective may not be sufficient to display the forensic process or document the events. Having another high quality camera with flexibility of perspectives and interchangeable lenses can capture aspects of my investigation that body worn cameras cannot.

Video evidence produced by CCTV systems can help solve crime, as well as reproduce accidents and disasters as they occurred for play back in many different settings. A significant use a video forensic expert has when recording video from a CCTV system is to create an exemplar. This recording is used as a comparison file to the original evidence to help determine the authenticity of the original evidence.

It is a best practice of ours at Primeau Forensics to video record many forensic investigations like the exemplar creation process and evidence recovery so if anyone has any questions during the life of the case, this video work product can be referenced.

Now listen in with Audio and Video Forensic Expert Ed Primeau as he discusses creating Video Work Product for Forensic Investigations.

17: How to Make Digital Audio Evidence

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

digital audio evidenceAudio evidence can often be one of the most important pieces of evidence for a case, so it should always be given a great deal of attention. I’m going to cover some tips on how to create the best audio recording possible, whether it’s a police interview, a concealed recording or anything in between.

One of the most common ways people create digital audio evidence is by using digital audio recorders. Law enforcement will often use them for interrogations and confessions, and sometimes even out in the field as a backup for their dash cam or body cam audio. People outside of law enforcement use them for creating audio evidence as well.

Tips on Creating Digital Audio Recordings

  1. Choose settings on the digital recorder that optimize the quality of the audio and optimize the amount of space on the recorder.
  2. Listen and note any extraneous noise present in the area before making the recording. If at all possible, remove this sound or find a way to work around it.
  3. Get as close to the desired sound source as possible when creating the audio recording. The closer the microphone is to the sound source, the better the level of the desired signal will be.
  4. Make sure the digital audio recorder is in an optimal location. Make sure that the microphone is facing the subject and that the recorder is relatively stable to avoid extra noise. If possible, use an external microphone to get better quality audio.
  5. Always create a test recording before the actual recording. Listen back carefully and adjust the settings of the recording and the location of the recorder to make sure it is capturing the highest possible level in the best quality.

Now listen in with Audio and Video Forensic Expert Ed Primeau as he discusses the best practices for creating digital audio evidence.

photo credit: Ready to record! via photopin (license)

16: VIEVU Body Cameras with Steve Ward

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Steve Ward is the CEO and founder of VIEVU.  He worked as a police officer in Seattle for 13 years, including 6 years on the SWAT team. Afterwards, Mr. Ward became the Vice President of Marketing and International Sales for Taser International. He has an MBA from the Edinburgh Business School, a Certificate from the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon.  Steve Ward founded VIEVU in 2007, which manufactures high definition, wearable video cameras for law enforcement and private professionals.  These camera systems have become necessary when considering the liability present in law enforcement, and also provide strong evidence for use in court.

Steve Ward is dedicated to making VIEVU cameras the most optimal body cameras for police officers and continues to provide the most updated and cutting edge hardware and software with his cameras.  VIEVU currently provides body cameras to 16 different countries and is one of the leading companies providing body worn cameras in the United States.

Now listen in as Ed Primeau and Steve Ward discuss VIEVU and the growing need for body camera video in law enforcement.

15: A Step-by-Step Approach to Forensic Audio Enhancement

Monday, January 19th, 2015

audio enhancementOne of the most common jobs for an Audio Forensic Expert is enhancing a digital audio recording for intelligibility and clarification.  Audio evidence is often recorded in less than optimal situations with poor quality equipment. This evidence can be vital to a case and when the content of the recording cannot be heard, the evidence can become useless.  This is why the audio enhancement process is one of the most important jobs as an Audio Forensic Expert.

There is no one way to enhance an audio recording because every recording is different and will have its own issues that make the enhancement process necessary. At the same time, it is important for the Forensic Expert to be aware of the processes available so they are prepared to handle any enhancement case that comes their way.

Critical Listening

To begin the enhancement process, the Forensic Expert should use critical listening.  Before adding any processing to the audio, they should listen through the recording multiple times and make notes on the issues they hear with the recording.  Noting different sections of the audio and marking these points can be extremely helpful when fixing different problems in the recording.

Diagnostic Tools

Some audio software includes processors that help fix clipping or clicking issues in the recording.  Using this process first will help clean up the audio as much as possible before delving into more advanced techniques.  Noise reduction is also a very helpful process for removing any background noise such that is consistent throughout the recording.

Dynamics Processing

Many recordings I receive have an overall low level to begin with and simply need an increase in gain. Compressors as well as gain plugins can help raise the overall level of the recording. Compression will also help balance all of the signals in the recording.

Equalization

Equalization is another extremely helpful tool for audio enhancement.  This will allow the Forensic Expert to remove unwanted frequencies and frequency ranges by varying amounts, as well as boost desired frequencies. When using an equalizer, the Forensic Expert should experiment using their knowledge of frequencies and what they see in the recording.

Now listen in with Audio and Video Forensic Expert Ed Primeau as he discusses the structured approach to forensic audio enhancements.

 

14: Video Surveillance with David Spreadborough

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

CCTVDavid Spreadborough is a CCTV investigator and a police officer for the Cheshire Police Department in Cheshire, England.  He has been a part of the police force for 23 years and began his video forensic career in 2003.  David is a member of the Law Enforcement & Emergency Services Video Association International (LEVA), the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), the CCTV National Standards Forum and he sat on the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Working Group for CCTV.  David has taken multiple training courses covering Forensic Video Analysis, CCTV installation and retrieval and Multimedia Evidence Processing. He focuses on CCTV video evidence and has spent the last few years working with CCTV manufacturers to improve the quality of systems as well as the installation and accessibility for law enforcement.

Up until November of 2014, David was the Senior Officer within the Visual Forensic Unit in the Cheshire Police Department and oversaw all major crime video investigations in the department.  It was then decided that Police Officers could no longer hold Forensic positions within the department.  David is currently looking forward to finding new ways to use his expertise as a Forensic Video Investigator and welcomes anyone who is interested in learning more about the field to contact him.

David is dedicated to the development of Forensic Video Analysis and working with new technology to improve the field.  If you would like to contact David, you can find him on linkedin.

Now listen in as Audio and Video Forensic Expert Ed Primeau and Officer David Spreadborough discuss the importance of CCTV systems for law enforcement, the advancements made in video surveillance over the last decade and the challenges being faced by Video Forensic Experts today.

10: How to Authenticate Digital Audio Evidence

Friday, November 14th, 2014

digital audio evidenceAuthenticating digital audio evidence and the importance of the authentication process for use in court. The chain of custody is the first step in the authentication process but does not in and of itself authenticate a piece of evidence. I have seen audio evidence that was not authentic and was stored in the original digital audio recorder that supposedly recorded it.

So why is audio authentication so important? 

The authentication process determines whether or not the audio recording in question has been tampered with.  In this age of digital audio, edits can be made and covered up very easily. There are free versions of audio editing software available on line that can make edits that alter the events or conversation that originally occurred in digital audio recordings. Most of the time, if an audio recording is edited after downloading to a computer and before authoring a CD, the editing can be detected by analyzing the audio file.

What is the process of authenticating digital audio evidence?

There are five steps that one must complete to properly authenticate digital audio evidence.

1. Establish a chain of custody. If the expert is able to retrieve the evidence from the original source, in most cases that will automatically create and establish a chain of custody. If it’s not possible for the forensic expert to retrieve the recording, then the forensic expert must carefully go through all of the documents and reports that arrived with the evidence. When the chain of custody cannot be established, the forensic examiner must rely on other techniques as well as their own expertise to determine the authenticity of the evidence.

2. Critically listen to the audio recording. During this process the expert should note unusual sounding sections in the recording, referred to as anomalies. They should place markers near any anomalies they hear for later reference when compiling a forensic report. Inconsistencies in sound quality, noise floor, and level of the recording are all important to pay attention to.  The forensic expert should use both studio monitors and headphones with flat frequency responses to best hear everything that is going on in the recording.

3. Electronically measure aspects of the recording. The forensic expert should use the audio forensic software they have to note the frequency ranges, levels and other aspects of the recording. Marking what frequency ranges voices or other sounds are in compared to the noise floor can also help the expert better detect sudden changes and other anomalies in the recording that may indicate tampering.

4. Visually inspect the audio recording. This step will go hand in hand with electronic measurement. The forensic expert should analyze the waveform characteristics and look for any anomalies present. The expert can also use spectrum analysis and spectrograms to better see the behavior of the frequencies and detect breaks or changes in the signal or noise floor.

5. Analyze the metadataThe forensic expert will also need to inspect digital information of the recording such as the hex information, sampling rate, bit depth and file format. This will need to be compared with an exemplar recording so that anomalies can be properly detected. Digital footprints are almost always left on recordings when they are created and when they are edited using other software.

For a forensic examiner to authenticate a piece of audio evidence, the examiner must prove beyond any doubt that the recording is in its original form and has not undergone any tampering.  If a piece of evidence is not authentic, it should not be used in court because it may be incomplete or altered to purport events that did not occur.

9: How to Recover Digital Media Evidence

Friday, November 7th, 2014

evidence retrieval I’d like to discuss evidence recovery, specifically digital media evidence recovery.  Having a forensic expert retrieve the evidence maintains the quality of the evidence and can help ensure that the original evidence stays intact on the original system so it can later be retrieved by other parties.  This is why it is extremely important that only a trained expert retrieve the evidence.  In this episode, I will cover proper procedures for evidence retrieval, proper handling of the evidence and what precautions one should take when retrieving digital media evidence from a recording system.

Steps for Proper Evidence Retrieval

1. Research before retrieving the evidence.  The forensic expert should learn everything they can about the recording system beforehand.  Connecting with the manufacturer, reading the manual and researching further online all benefit the expert.  This will make analyzing and operating the system onsite easier for the expert and optimize the retrieval process.

2. Obtain any necessary software, proprietary player or codec. If the system records proprietary or encoded files, the expert should obtain the player or codec beforehand.  If that is not possible, the expert should be prepared to install the necessary player or codec onsite from either the recording system or client.  More often than not, modern digital surveillance systems require a special codec or proprietary player and without this installed, the forensic expert will not be able to access the digital media evidence.

3. Record the evidence retrieval process. The forensic expert should record both audio and video of the evidence retrieval to include in the chain of custody and forensic report.  When I am recovering evidence from a digital recording system, I always have a VIEVU body camera on my person, as well as a digital audio recorder in my pocket.  Along with authenticating the evidence, this can serve as the expert’s notes later on in the investigation in case they need to refer to something that was discussed during the evidence retrieval.

4. Photograph and inspect the digital recording system. The forensic expert should include photographs of the unit in their report and take careful notes on anything they notice about the unit.  This could include damage, tampering or any other abnormalities they notice on the recorder.  Along with the video recording, it is usually beneficial for the expert to photograph anything they note during the process.

5. Follow the manual for the highest quality retrieval. The expert should have the manual with them when retrieving the evidence to make sure that any copy or export is in the highest quality format and does not affect the original recorded file.
photo credit: iLike iRiver via photopin (license)

7: Importance of the Chain of Custody for Digital Media Evidence

Monday, October 27th, 2014

chain of custodyEstablishing chain of custody when authenticating digital media evidence for use in the courtroom is extremely important. The chain of custody must account for the seizure, storage, transfer and condition of the evidence.  The chain of custody is absolutely necessary for admissible evidence in court.

Importance to the expert

My forensic software allows me to look at the metadata or digital information of an audio or video recording, but does not always allow me to understand how a recording was created.  Just because the information is missing from the metadata does not mean that a recording has been compromised.  This is why the chain of custody information is important to a forensic examiner. It helps show where the file came from, who created it, and the type of equipment that was used.  That way, if I want to create an exemplar, I can get that equipment, create the exemplar and compare it to the evidence to confirm the file properties.

Importance to the court

When I testify in court with a piece of evidence, I am always prepared with the chain of custody.  As I mentioned earlier, without a complete chain of custody, it can become very easy for the opposing attorney or prosecutor to challenge or dismiss the evidence presented.  Having a complete chain of custody form, as well as any other accompanying forms and including any visual proof of retrieval, such as pictures or video, greatly helps prove the authenticity and admissibility of the evidence in the courtroom.

Recently, new ways of establishing a chain of custody have come about and are slowly becoming accepted in the legal community.  Online services are now available for digital evidence that record the chain of custody and who has received the evidence.  The evidence is stored in cloud space and eliminates the need for repeated transference of physical copies.  It maintains standardized security procedures and is also useful as a backup storage space for surveillance cameras.

Chain of custody is important to the court because if I find something wrong with the evidence during the authentication process, it allows me to go back and determine who was responsible for the evidence up until that point. 

Importance to the investigation

The chain of custody is important to the investigation process because it is the first step when authenticating digital audio and video evidence.  Identifying this chain of custody provides information about whether or not this evidence has been copied or cloned.  As technology advances and becomes more accessible, digital media evidence has become easier to edit, modify and alter.  The Scientific Working Group on Digital Evidence (SWGDE & IOCE) defines Original Digital Evidence as, “Physical items and the data objects associated with such items at the time of acquisition or seizure.”  It is not always possible to receive the evidence from its original source at the time of acquisition or seizure.  Very often, I receive digital media evidence from a client who may have received it from the police or another source.  When this occurs, I have to pay careful attention to the reports, depositions and other legal documents that accompany the evidence.  This paper trail must be part of an unbroken timeline that shows exactly where the evidence has been between its creation and my examination of it.  When I encounter any gaps in this timeline that can raise questions to the authenticity of the evidence, further investigation becomes necessary.

There are occasions when I am asked by the client to physically retrieve the evidence directly from the recorder that created it.  This process creates the chain of custody for my investigation.  When an expert creates the chain of custody, it removes all doubt as to the authenticity of the evidence.   This process has become more common throughout my investigations when the original evidence is available for my retrieval.  To further authenticate this process, I create audio and video recordings of the retrieval process, which becomes part of the chain of custody. In addition, when I am at the site and I retrieve the digital evidence, I have access to the administrator information about that evidence, such as an administrative log, date and file info, and who accessed the files.  The more information an expert can retrieve strengthens the authentic chain of custody that is created.

Primeau Forensics’ chain of custody process

  • Save original package materials
  • Take photos of physical evidence
  • Take screenshots of digital evidence content
  • Document date, time and any other information of receipt
  • Ingest a bit for bit clone of digital evidence content into our forensic computers
  • Perform a hash test analysis to further authenticate working clone

All of the above information outlined in our forensic procedure for creating a chain of custody is important and necessary to include when creating a forensic report.

When examining digital media evidence, especially digital audio and video recordings, you should never examine the original file.  Always make sure that when you process a piece of evidence, you work on the copy of that file so that the original remains untouched at all times.  That way, if you have to go back to compare your work product to the original, you’ll have that original file preserved.

It doesn’t matter what forensic science you are an expert in.  The chain of custody is always important.  Maintaining that chain of custody is crucial for the credibility of your work product and eventual testimony.

 

 

 

 

 

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