Identifying Suspects After Robberies

Posted by Stuart Rawling | Jan 19, 2018 3:45:36 PM

Robbery is defined as taking of property by force or the threat of force. When a robbery occurs, there are several important factors that first responders (law enforcement, private security, fire, emergency services) must consider:

  • Are the suspects armed?
  • How many suspects are involved?
  • Are there any civilians in harm’s way?
  • Is there a description of the suspect?
  • Which direction did the suspect flee?

Knowing the answers to these questions will greatly influence the immediate actions taken by first responders and provide responders with the information needed to protect the citizens and themselves. Once these questions are answered a more detailed response and investigation can proceed.

How can first responders get this information? Through a combination of calls to 911, witness interviews, city-wide surveillance system deployment, and privately-owned surveillance systems. By viewing from a city-wide surveillance deployment, and from the on premises surveillance system, first responders can get a physical picture and description of suspect(s); if they left on foot or in a vehicle; and the direction of flight. If a vehicle was used to leave the area, the camera video can provide a visible description, direction of flight, and potentially the license plate number.

Once the responders have the suspect’s picture, description, vehicle description, and direction of flight; they can begin the investigation. The sooner they have this information, the better. With the picture and descriptions, responders can canvas the area asking for additional information. This also includes putting this information out to the news outlets & social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Having the license plate information speeds up the process in identifying the address where the vehicle is registered and leads for further investigation.

This all starts with the proper selection and placement of surveillance cameras. Color cameras are the most effective at describing individuals and vehicles. It is extremely important to select a camera with low light capabilities for outdoor use. IR cameras are not effective when trying to determine colors of clothes, hair, or vehicles. The imaging must be high quality, high resolution, and free from blurs. Depending on distance, a 2 MP imager is usually sufficient, longer distances may require lens selection changes or a larger imager. Also, use a camera with 1080P resolution and 60IPS to eliminate image blurring.

Camera placement is extremely important and using a mixture of visible and discrete cameras may help. Visible cameras, or ones that are out in the open, often serve as deterrents to crime. However, they may not be enough. Discrete, overt cameras can be installed at lower angles and are not obvious to potential criminals. These cameras can be strategically placed to maximum viewing capabilities of faces, even when clothing such as ‘hoodies’, which shroud the head and obscure faces, are worn. Ideal locations for camera placement are called choke points, areas where people must go to or through such as a cash register, a doorway, a parking lot entrance and exit, etc. These are ideal areas to get identification shots. Placing height measurement markings on door jams, near cash registers, or other locations, can provide suspects height estimates as they pass these locations. If there is a city-wide camera surveillance system in the area, the recordings from these cameras can be reviewed and included in a case file as part of the collected evidence.

Remember, the most important item in a robbery is the safety of any individuals in the area. Knowing whether a suspect is armed, if there are multiple suspects, if there are any innocent by-standers, getting a good description, and knowing the direction of flight are key items to direct response and initiate an investigation. Having a good, on-premise video surveillance system with high quality cameras; coupled with an outside city-wide deployment of cameras will help to identify the suspect and hopefully lead to their eventual capture and property recovery.

Written by Stuart Rawling