LET talks with Lt. Samual Hood III, Director of Law Enforcement Operations for CitiWatch - Keeping Baltimore Safe
LET: How is video impacting cities and emergency situation?
SH:I think CCTV now…is bigger than just video. We see it across all disciplines: video’s tangible; it’s what everybody can put their hands on; but you see the true interoperability where it reduces cost and you have better proficiency for public safety. We’ve seen it even with the Boston bombing where you had [shared video] between public and private entities. Think of the Oklahoma bombing. It was a couple of weeks, maybe even a month before they could identify someone from the serial number of the actual U-Haul that was out front, or the Ryder truck. Well, now in two days, as soon as they were able to they had suspects (in Boston). In four days one of them was dead, and in five days they had both of them. You couldn’t have done that without video.
LET: It’s interesting you likened Oklahoma City to Baltimore. How much success can you attribute to changing technology and how much to better communication and cooperation between public and private, and agency to agency?
SH: Well, I’d say the technology would be first and then you’d have the cooperation. Because technology is leading us right now. Before, they had actually gotten the video from a Lord and Taylor department store—a private entity—it would have been taped over by VHS or whatever, in 24 hours we would have lost that.
LET: Could you address how the monitoring of video has changed, too?
SH. It’s all about being proactive. Not reactive, but proactive. That has changed immensely with cameras. Now everybody understands the value of proactive monitoring instead of reactive monitoring. I’m not saying you’re going to catch everything, but sometimes we’re being more aggressive—we’re watching cameras in real time and identifying where and when we need to be watching.
What happened at the finish line changed everybody’s stance the same as 9-11 did. You see it for Preakness already; we’ve eliminated all the backpacks; you’d have to have more than a 5’ by 8’ square area that’s clear for coolers just because of what can be contained inside a backpack.
LET: In your opinion, who is the ideal person to monitor the footage?
SH: You’d have to start with law enforcement, because you have to have someone who’s trained, who sees what’s a criminal act and what’s not…someone who understands what’s the action that indicates someone has an ulterior motive and then someone who does not. Think about it. You and I could be standing there in the same area. What I see and what you see will be totally different, because I’m looking at it in terms of security. If somebody says to you, ‘they’ve bladed themselves against the wall,’ what they’re doing is turning their body away from you so you can’t see it. To me, that’s a characteristic of somebody who’s doing criminal behavior, trying to hide something. Before, without the technology, we’ve had to identify that in seconds, coming up on a scene after getting a call. And even though we got the call, [we’d have to figure out whether] this person matches the description. Technology’s helping us now because we’re sending a picture of that person in real time before they even get there.
LET: You talk about the swiftness with which people saw suspicious activity in Boston, and were able to use video to make an arrest really quickly now versus a couple years ago...what else do you take away from Boston?