Cracking down on crime
Hartford Capital City Command Center expands citywide network of Axis cameras to help police investigate crimes in real-time and studies the impact of forensic video on the solvability of crimes.
Real Time is Real Good
Though the Hartford Police Department (HPD) uses a lot of investigative tools to solve its criminal investigations, it wasn’t until they integrated those technologies into their state-of-the-art Capital City Command Center (C4) that solvability rates began to climb.
As a fully integrated real-time crime center, C4 brought all of the department’s fragmented technologies under one roof so that analysts could quickly synthesize vast amounts of critical data and video into actionable intelligence and push that out to officers in real time. With help from Vulcan Security Technologies – a systems integrator and Axis partner – the department built the smart city solution on a scalable, open platform data-driven video technology system from Milestone Systems, called XProtect® Corporate video management software.
The C4 is constantly bustling with activity and reacting to events in real time. Analysts are pulling up camera views, map overlays, analytics, and other crime fighting applications through unified screen displays. They’re cataloguing data from incident reports, raw intelligence from beat officers and streaming video from a wide network of city-owned, high-definition Axis cameras as well as video collected from private businesses and residential security cameras.
The C4 crew is utilizing information from Axis license plate readers and Axis pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras and responding to alerts from a ShotSpotter system that triangulates the location of a shooting based on the sound of gunfire. C4 staff are even mining open-source web intelligence for threats to the community.
Axis is more than a vendor, they’re a true partner. They know our city, the problems and challenges we have. And they provide us the creative solutions to meet them.
Closing More Cases
“We’ve continued to expand video coverage across the city and grow the ranks of our analysts,” shares Sgt. Chris Mastroianni, a supervisor in the Hartford Police Department’s intelligence division and head of the C4. “That’s helped us achieve more real-time successes.”
In a typical year, HPD conducts more than 3,000 video searches and analyses to support investigators in the field. As a result, the department has been able to solve over 70% of the city’s homicide cases in recent years, due in large part to real time access to video and other data flowing into the C4 and out to officers. “We’ve recently conducted a study on a sample of firearm assault investigations in the city. The study found that cases that had a video component to the investigation had a 46% increase in solvability,” states Mastroianni.
The study, conducted in partnership with Professor Lisa Barao from Westfield State University, was based on a sample of 165 shooting cases – eliminating those that had variables that would prevent the crime from being able to be solved (such as uncooperative victims or undetermined crime scenes). “We reviewed those case files to determine if there was a video component. This involved interviewing detectives as well as matching data up with our own task documentation,” explains Mastroianni. "What we discovered was that we achieved a pretty large increase in solvability just by adding a camera.”
A Blueprint for Real-Time Crime Center Success
“The number one thing I tell people when they start building real-time crime centers, is to track and document their involvement in investigations so that they can articulate their success. We knew for years that we were having a positive effect on solvability, but before we initiated our study, it was very hard to specifically articulate our results,” says Mastroianni.
As more police departments across the US contemplate building similar crime centers, they are turning to Hartford for advice on how to do it right. “When they ask us: How do you put that together and actually achieve success? I tell them that it takes time,” shares Mastroianni. “You have to have good video coverage, technology integrations, and you need well-trained personnel. That's why I think over the past three years we've been able to be so good at increasing solvability and creating real time successes.”
Catching criminals red-handed
“Motor vehicles have become the nexus of our gun violence investigations,” says Mastroianni. “You might not capture the incident, but if you capture the suspect’s vehicle and put out a BOLO [Be On the Lookout], there’s a good chance you can stop the car and identify the operator, oftentimes with the weapon still in the vehicle.”
To help capture suspects fleeing the scene during investigations, the HPD employs multiple license plate recognition cameras throughout the city. “We recommended this model to the department because it delivers clear, useful images whether at night, dawn or dusk, in bright sunlight, even in shadowy locations,” shares Tyler Cullen of Vulcan Security Technologies. “That’s a huge asset in an investigation.”
When a call came into the C4 about a homicide that had just occurred outside a liquor store, analysts saw that cameras in the area had captured the suspect getting into a vehicle. They tracked the car as it crossed several intersections where Axis license plate readers were able to capture the plate number. “Analysts quickly ran a history on the plate that came back to an address just a couple streets away,” recalls Mastroianni. “Within 30 minutes, investigators had the suspect in custody with the murder weapon in hand.”
Bringing a drive-by shooter to justice
In another tragic affair that made national headlines, a three-year old was accidently struck by gun fire and killed in a drive-by shooting. “We happened to have cameras at the intersection where it happened so when the ShotSpotter alert came into the C4, analysts were able see video of the shooter’s vehicle,” recalls Mastroianni. Analysts tracked the vehicle as it travelled across the city, jumping from one camera view to another, and eventually observed the individuals who exited from it.
“It took about 40 minutes from trigger pull to finding that stolen car. With additional information we and investigators gathered, officers were able to make an arrest in a matter of days,” declares Mastroianni. “We brought closure to the family very quickly. Without the real-time data gathered by the C4 analysts, I think there’s a possibility it could have become a cold case.”
We’ve recently conducted a study on a sample of firearm assault investigations in the city. The study found that cases that had a video component to the investigation had a 46% increase in solvability.
Partners in mission-focused solutions
“It’s not just the quality of the cameras like the PTZs, which we push pretty hard,” says Mastroianni. “It’s that Axis’ approach to technology is all about mission-driven solutions.” For instance, when the HPD had a pressing need to monitor a particular neighborhood that had been victim to gun violence and insufficient infrastructure to support cameras on every corner, Axis offered just the solution they needed.
“We put an AXIS Q63 Series PTZ camera with 4K resolution atop a building that provided a great line of sight into the area,” explains Tyler Cullen. “The optical zoom gave the department such great detail that C4 was even able to pull meaningful data from adjacent streets.”
Cullen and Mastroianni view Axis as a partner in the police department’s crime prevention and investigation efforts rather than simply a vendor of technology. “Axis is always at the forefront of creative, very mission-focused designs that you don’t typically see from other vendors,” says Cullen.
He points to a creative solution that the HPD is currently piloting to deter speeding. The deployment integrates Axis fixed cameras with Axis security radars and LED lights from the network strobe siren that flash different colored lights depending on the speed of the motorist. C4 analysts will analyze the data to see if the project has any measurable impact on reducing vehicles speeding through intersections.”
“Our partnership with Axis takes our efforts to create a safer city to the next level,” says Chris Mastroianni. “We know we can count on their creativity and expertise to help Hartford continue to be a great place to live, work, and visit.”
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