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Security cameras in San Francisco surveillance program not being used to their fullest capabilities

Published by Dan on January 29, 2008 9:42 AM

San Francisco's city-funded surveillance program has faced criticism recently for its inability to perform up to its potential. The problem appears to lie less with the quality of the cameras, and more with the way they are being operated. Since the 68-camera system was installed, instances of the cameras providing visual evidence in criminal cases have been rare. A recent review of the program found that choppy video may be the main culprit. If cameras aren't streaming video at a high enough frame rate, then the odds of capturing useful images are lessened. Footage examined during the review played more like a slideshow than continuous streaming video, with 1 or 2 seconds passing between frames. Contrast this with the full-scale surveillance program in Chicago, where high-quality video is delivered at 30 frames per second, and it becomes clear that San Francisco's program has room for improvement.

Granted, the report was based on only four cameras monitoring the Mission District, but the choppy video was not a promising sign. One apparent problem seems to be that the city currently lacks the data storage space to accommodate video footage at higher frame rates. The San Francisco surveillance program was built on a modest budget, and while good equipment is in place, cutting corners in the area of storage can certainly have a negative impact on the performance of a video surveillance system. City administrators are looking into conducting a broader surveillance report to determine what adjustments need to be made to make to current system more effective.

Read more in the San Francisco Chronicle...

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