Why public safety professionals need a digital evidence management system

CCTV, dash cam or body-worn camera footage. Whether it’s about proving an alibi or clearly pointing out a perpetrator’s act, there’s no denying that these are some of the most important forms of evidence.

What do all of these have in common? They are super useful as evidence; you’ve got to admit that! But the simple answer is they are all forms of “digital evidence,” and their digital nature brings in a unique set of challenges.

In the past, digital evidence management was a topic that was not often talked about, but recent explosions in the existence of such data have made it a priority for public safety professionals.

Let’s look at the numbers. Estimates show that CCTV footage generates about 2,500 petabytes of data daily worldwide. It’s highly likely your agency is handling a few petabytes of footage as well.

Sure, digital evidence is being generated in massive volumes and requires special attention, but what does this mean for public safety? What challenges are you likely to face? And how can technology help?

Challenges to managing digital evidence

Digital evidence includes mostly images, video and audio files. To store, process and collaborate on these files efficiently, you need specialized software called a digital evidence management system.

But what value does it offer? What challenges will it address?

Central access and storage

CCTV footage is stored in a video management system, audio recordings on tapes, body-worn camera footage separately and dash cam footage usually on a USB drive or disk.

If footage and recordings reside in disparate storage systems or on separate premises, it’s a real productivity killer for officers when they need to find relevant evidence.

A digital evidence management system allows public safety professionals to access files from one centralized system. One step further, it can integrate with a records management system to assign evidence to relevant cases.

Compatibility

Digital files come in a range of file formats. Most of these might not readily play on the device you’re using.

So, what’s next? Convert these incompatible files yourself? Sorry, you’d rather spend time solving cases instead.

What’s best for public safety professionals are audio and video files that are ready to play and can be accessed through a browser or application. A digital evidence management system does this for you, by doing the processing (encoding and transcoding) of digital files itself.

Volume

We already discussed how enormous amounts of CCTV footage are being generated daily. Body cam video, dash cam footage and audio recordings are not far behind.

Digital data is likely to consume more space than other forms and can quickly pile up on your organization’s hard drives.

Sharing large files is a whole new ballgame. It’s counterproductive for public safety professionals to download gigabytes of content just to view them.

What you need is a specialized system that stores these files in the cloud or on-premises and does the necessary bits to manage large volumes. This includes compression, archiving and using metadata to organize data.

Search

If you have a library full of thousands of videos, each an hour-long on average, then finding relevant information is just not easy.

If they were text documents, then a simple search would return your document of interest, but with a simple search, you can only find an audio or video file based on its title. Then you have to skim through the footage to find what you need. This seems like a tedious task!

An assistive AI search makes spoken words searchable in a digital evidence management system. Plus, you can tag files, assign custom attributes (e.g., case number) and skim through videos as you do on Netflix or YouTube.

Security

To ensure admissibility in court, it’s important to secure digital evidence by restricting it to authorized individuals only. You need to maintain a log (chain of custody) of who accesses these files and keep them safe from tampering.

A digital evidence management system ensures protection of your agency’s data by providing a range of security features within the software. Depending on your agency’s preference, it also allows you to securely store data on-premises or in the cloud.

Collaboration

Multiple public safety professionals are often involved and work together on a single digital file. You may also have multiple files involved in a single case.

You probably need to create an evidence board with multiple digital files. Collaborating on digital files is not easy unless you have the necessary tools available for you.

Using a digital evidence management system, public safety professionals can add notes to files, timed comments at relevant frames in a video or show multiple videos (for example, a CCTV camera feed from multiple angles) in a single frame.

Protecting personal information

Digital files contain personal information, such as faces or license plates in a video, or personally identifiable information being spoken. This may need to be redacted for compliance purposes.

Redaction is generally easier for documents as you can search for relevant personal information and black it out; however, it’s not easy for a video that contains multiple frames. Consider a video of a street with faces of multiple people within it. Then audio files, which can be hours long. It’s counterproductive to listen to the whole audio file just to mute a few seconds.

Assistive AI provided by a digital evidence management system can help you help you redact information within minutes – a process that could have taken hours.

VIDIZMO + Hexagon

A digital evidence management system helps public safety professionals easily access, collaborate on and share digital evidence, while not having to worry about centralized storage and specialized processing.

It helps save precious time for public safety professionals so they can focus on keeping their communities safe.

VIDIZMO, in partnership with Hexagon, provides a comprehensive digital evidence management system that was recognized as a “major player” the IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Digital Evidence Management Solutions for Law Enforcement 2020 Vendor Assessment.

The strategic partnership provides public safety agencies with improved digital evidence and video content management and enables agencies to better collect, process and analyze digital evidence to improve the investigation process and increase case clearance.

Learn more

Want to learn how Hexagon and VIDIZMO can help you streamline digital evidence management? Contact us today!

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