The TV news anchor soberly announced the day's top story: another city transit bus had been bombed, and a domestic terror group was claiming responsibility. The report went on to say that witnesses saw a man get off the bus just before it blew up, and that the FBI was investigating. The scene described above—realistic as it may sound—is part of a fictional new video. But Caught on Camera is not a product of Hollywood.
While it does have high production values, special effects, and narration by Annie Wersching, co-star of the TV show 24, the video was created by our Operational Technology Division to show business owners how their security cameras can aid law enforcement investigations and maybe even help solve a terrorist attack. Using the transit bus bombing as its story line, the 20-minute instructional video shows how closed circuit television (CCTV) systems can be installed and maintained for maximum effect—not only for the business owner but for the needs of law enforcement as well.
"Convenience stores, banks, mom and pop operations, gas stations—potentially tens of thousands of businesses could enhance their security systems with the simple tips provided by this video," said Katrina Gossman, unit chief for the Forensic Audio, Video, and Image Analysis Unit. Buying expensive new equipment isn't necessary, Gossman added. In most cases, a few changes to existing systems can make a significant difference.
"Often the surveillance images we receive from these types of security cameras are of poor quality, and they don't need to be," she said, explaining that such images can be critical in identifying and apprehending a terrorist or fugitive.
Caught on Camera shows how to avoid common problems such as installing cameras in the wrong places, ignoring lighting and line-of-sight issues, and having administrators who don't understand how the systems operate. "Many business owners think their systems are fine until something happens," Gossman said.
The video uses real actors as well as FBI personnel, including members of our Hostage Rescue Team. "We wanted to make a training video that wasn't boring," said Melody Buba, a forensic video examiner who worked on the year-long project. "It needed to be entertaining enough for business owners to watch it, but instructional." In the video, the terrorist shops for bomb-making material in a local home improvement store and buys backpacks at a pharmacy to transport the explosives.
Many of the stores' surveillance images are flawed, but one home improvement store camera reveals that the bomber has a distinguishing tattoo on his neck, which proves crucial to the investigation. There are many ways for CCTV systems to fail, one of the actors explained. "But when the system works, it can make all the difference." If you are going to install a CCTV system, the video points out, "Do it right—for yourself, for law enforcement, and for your community."
In the case of Caught on Camera, the system did indeed work. And the outcome is fun to watch. Caught on Camera is also available free of charge in DVD format to members of the law enforcement community, business owners, CCTV vendors, suppliers, contractors, and educators.Back to News Archives