Making a Difference in Delaware
Delaware State Police Sergeant Robert Moses recently received a call regarding a tough case to crack: forgery of checks for a large amount of money and a suspect unwilling to admit his guilt. The arresting officer had a videotape of the crime and had attempted several times to get prints from it but was unable to obtain any usable images and was quickly getting frustrated. That was until Moses, the supervisor of the Delaware State Police high-tech crime unit, stepped in.
Armed with an Avid Xpress system with Ocean Systems' dTective package, Moses first made a digital copy of the tape. He then set to work improving the resolution of the image, working with it until he was able to capture images clearly showing the defendant writing the checks. His job done, Moses returned the tape and the images to the officer. Just before the trial, the impressed investigator showed the clarified video to the defendant and his lawyer. The defendant knew better than to continue his pleas of innocence and entered a guilty plea at the trial.
It was another case solved thanks to the Avid Xpress system with the dTective package, according to Moses. The Delaware State Police high-tech crime unit is swamped with requests from other state and local agencies requesting video analysis help in solving crimes. The dTective system has proven invaluable time and time again for the unit, which is responsible for forensic video analysis services for 50 counties and local agencies.
dTective comes in especially handy when investigating bank robbery cases. Since most bank video surveillance systems record images at the field level, with two images per frame, police agencies limited to consumer grade VCRs, will often miss half of the evidence. Using the Avid/Ocean Systems package, Moses and his co-workers are able to play, record, and examine all of the images in a digital format. Full disclosure is guaranteed and no pictures of the suspect are missed when the video is eventually presented in court.
When Moses and his supervisor were shopping for the right editing system last year, Moses already had a clear idea of what he wanted. "We needed the tools to effectively extract information from the typically poor surveillance videos seized by our investigation units, and the Avid system was it." In addition, the Avid/Ocean Systems package came with the backing and support of law enforcement. Grant Fredericks used to be the coordinator of the forensic video unit for the Vancouver Police Department in Canada. Fredericks now works for Avid and teaches a course in advanced forensic video analysis at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. The class, which is limited to police-only, uses 15 Avid Xpress systems in the hands-on lab, where students/investigators examine their own crime videos, preparing them for trial.
In the hunt for a forensic video analysis system, Moses was impressed with Avid's record in court. "It was the only system we could find that was field tested by a police expert in front of a judge and jury. And the company provided someone who was willing to teach what we needed to know," explains Moses.
In addition to receiving calls from Delaware's state and local law enforcement agencies, Moses also gets queries from neighboring states, such as New Jersey and Maryland, where officers have heard about the groundbreaking work his team is doing with the dTective System. They tell him they don't have the equipment but they do need the help.
Moses says he has learned to be selective. "You have to pick and choose video cases. We have a backlog, and we get all sorts of calls for help. Plus, when we got started, we underestimated the amount of video evidence we had."
On average, Delaware's high-tech crime unit, which has four officers, processes between 20 to 30 videotapes per month. The demand for more help is there, says Moses. "If I had another Avid machine, I know I would keep it busy, too."
Prior to getting the Avid Xpress system, Moses' main frustration surrounded the high number of video surveillance recorders and multiplexers on the market. Few of them were compatible with his old tools. With the dTective system, which includes dPlex, a universal multiplex decoder, he can now effectively and accurately access all of the videotaped images seized by his agency, eliminating the need for redundant equipment and helping to cut costs. "In the past, most of these tapes would never be able to be played in court. Now we don't have that problem," explains Moses, adding, "This is not about simply printing pictures. This is forensic video analysis on Avid Xpress: a true science.