Friday, October 21, 2011

Stanley Cup riot video analysis a tiresome task

This just in from the Vancouver Sun: "The young woman with light brown hair sports a delirious grin as she uses a hockey stick wrapped in a Canucks flag to smash the rest of a 15-foot store window, after game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in June.

More than four months later, her image now sits on the desk of Special Const. Jevon Vaessen as he begins identifying her amid riot video footage which, if screened continuously, would last 208 days.

“It’s lot like searching in, say, a Microsoft document or something,” said Vaessen, one of the Integrated Riot Investigation Team’s four full-time forensic video analysts. “You’re looking for the key words.”

In the search fields of his computer program, he types in his “target’s” upper clothing colour and length (blue and short), lower clothing colour and length (dark and long).

About 20 clips show up with people in frames matching those descriptions.

Vaessen then inputs another search field with the woman’s hair colour (light and long). Ten clips show up.

“It’s like a Google search, you start searching and say, ‘Is this what I need?’” said Vaessen, who is on loan to the VPD from Port Moody police department.

Vaessen will screen each clip until he can obtain an image of the woman from which an investigator can get an identification. Within one frame, analysts could target as many as 10 rioters, identified by red dots.

“There are some clips with so many targets,” Vaessen said. “You’ll see red dots side-by-side-by-side.”

To date, 91 suspects have turned themselves in or been positively identified.

The video searching is made possible by the meta-tags that a team of 60 international forensic video experts at the University of Indianapolis applied to the riot clips over a two-week period in September.

The university’s lab was established in 2007 and houses FBI training courses, but this was the first time an active investigation used the lab. The analysts working on the riot case were paid by their individual law enforcement agencies, but IRIT footed the bill for their room and board.

The analysts amalgamate footage shot from video cameras, smartphones and digital cameras that was in dozens of different formats into a single file type.

Then Vaessen, his fellow IRIT analysts and their American and British counterparts went through each frame and flagged them with meta-tags denoting location and describing the people and events.

These 15,000 different tags include multiple camera angles of the same suspects committing the same crimes.

Some critics say digging for this amount of evidence is overkill and bogging down the riot probe, but lead investigator Insp. Les Yeo said IRIT is legally required to collect all possible evidence before charges are laid.

“We have to follow that procedure,” Yeo said. “If we don’t follow that procedure we’re going to get bad case law, acquittals, not guilty or no charges.

“It’s actually something that is forensic evidence, just like a fingerprint,” Yeo said of the evidence produced from the video analysis. “And, just like DNA, we have to forensically get it in as evidence to the court.”

Yeo said he understands the public’s frustration with the pace of the investigation.

“I totally get it. I, too, am not happy with the fact that it takes this long to get the charges forwarded [to Crown prosecutors],” Yeo said. “However, working within the system and with having worked within the system for 30 years I do know what is required ...”

Continue reading the article by clicking here.


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