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Caught on Camera 2

By: Amanda O'Neal
By: Amanda O'Neal

More and more, police are using video to catch criminals. Wet her it was captured by a dash board camera in a patrol car, or surveillance footage from a convenience store, video is invaluable in prosecution.

Police are going high tech when it comes to fighting crime. It's now the digital age and Bryan's police department is one of many jumping on board.

Lt. Ben Smith is in charge of mobile video at Bryan's police department. He's overseeing the transition from VHS to digital. Four of Bryan's police cars are equipped with new digital video systems.

"The new video system improves the video and the audio recordings a great deal and that was one of the motivating factors in getting the new, more expensive digital technology," said Smith.

With the new system, officers never handle tapes. The video from their cars goes straight to a computer server at the police department.

"We can search through our video data base a lot easier than we could with the old VHS tapes," said Smith.

But for departments that still use VHS or surveillance video and encounter problems with the quality, Bobby Pittmon can help. He works for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville and enhances video using forensic software.

"With new technology, we've come out to the digital age and they can do a lot more with digital video, but the analog is best to enhance. So whenever we enhance VHS tapes we can get the best enhancement from those tapes," said Pittmon.

Pittmon is often able to enhance video to show a clearer image of the suspects face and details such as tattoos and scars. This has helped police get the word out to the public to help locate and capture a suspect.

"What we try to do is slow it down and do more of a real time effect on the video and try to enhance it either by brightening it or darkening it, zoom in zoom out," said Pittmon.

In addition to dash cam and surveillance video, police also use smaller devices during sting operations or investigations. Palm pilots, and cell phones equipped with cameras are also used to gather evidence.

Video evidence is also helping the justice system move along faster. Detectives and prosecutors say it often provides an open and shut case, saving time and money.

"Video evidence is irrefutable. Simply put in the video and play it for the judge and jury. It speaks for itself," said Detective Ken Foulch with Huntsville's police department.

New technology doesn't come without a price tag. Digital video systems like the one Bryan's police department uses, and enhancement software cost thousands of dollars and there's only a small number of companies that make them.


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