Forensic Video Acquisition Field Kit

The Forensic Video Acquisition Field Kit is a portable computer workstation with video recovery tools and software used to assist forensic experts in obtaining footage from security/surveillance systems. This type of digital evidence is used by detectives to assist in identifying suspects and/or providing leads during the early stages of an investigation. There are many technological challenges with processing footage from digital CCTV systems. The systems are often proprietary, require a password, and the footage is poor quality, but with the assistance from the SPF, the Video Unit has advanced acquisition tools and industry software to provide investigators with immediate results.

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On January 1, 2015, Robbery Detective Michael Magan responded to a brutal stabbing/robbery that occurred at a gas station in the Georgetown neighborhood. The victim, a man in his mid-60s, was stabbed repeatedly and detectives initially believed he would not survive his injuries.  The two suspects were captured on surveillance video at the scene of the crime, at various locations along Aurora Ave, and at the site of one of the suspect’s arrest at the Orion Motel.  The victim survived his injuries but is now permanently blind in both eyes.

One of the challenges Video Specialists encountered was the fact the video security system at the gas station was password protected and a proprietary legacy system. The victim was the only person who possessed the password information and was in critical condition at the hospital.  In fear of losing any potential evidence, members of the SPD Video Unit quickly used their newly acquired technology to recover hours of footage from the crime scene and at the Orion Motel.  Adding to the investigative challenges, it was impossible for the victim to identify the suspects because of his blindness; however, the recovered video evidence, physical evidence (fingerprint and DNA), and coupled with great detective work by the SPD Detective Unit, both men pleaded guilty for the robbery and stabbing of the gas station owner and were sentenced in February 2016.

Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Video Unit responds to hundreds of these types of forensic video retrievals a year. As more and more digital cameras are incorporated into devices, vehicles, buildings, etc. the need for law enforcement to acquire the most advanced forensic tools and training will continue. Unlike DNA and fingerprint evidence, digital evidence is continuously changing with technological advances in encryption, cloud storage, high-efficiency compression schemes, and network and internet protocol-based devices. Fortunately, for SPD detectives, the Video Unit has the tools and technical expertise to recover video evidence and provide ease of mind to detectives when it comes to retrieving video evidence. The unit currently supports detectives from the Criminal Investigative Division and has recently experienced a large increase in demand for forensic video services.