Digital Video System

The South Orange Village community discussion on the Digital Video System being installed in town will be held on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 at 7:00pm.  The event is now on Zoom and will include interactive breakout sessions.  You must register in advance for this meeting at https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYof-ygrTssHtaKbN4pghlOCn03ROYPGOPH

 We do suggest you read the below information for a better understanding of what the overall project is.


  1. What is the Digital Video System? 

Township of South Orange Village (the “Village”) elected officials have authorized the Village Information Technology Department (IT) to invest in a Digital Video System (“DVS”) for use by the South Orange Police Department (“SOPD”). Our DVS is a combination of hardwired and wireless video systems and is used by our Village for public safety purposes. 

  1. What is the purpose of the DVS?

The singular role of the Village’s DVS is to provide enhanced public safety.  The system is used as an investigation tool by the SOPD and in the case of a live incident, to supervise the scene and provide guidance to on site first responders. Incidents that might entail DVS use include but are not limited to crimes, motor vehicle crashes, missing person searches and law enforcement conduct complaints. Note that the vast majority of use cases entail crimes and motor vehicle crashes.

  1. What is the process for purchasing and approving DVS equipment?

DVS equipment is purchased through the Village capital budget and procurement process. In the fall, each department compiles their operating and capital budget requests which are reviewed and modified by the Village Administrator.  Capital budget requests related to DVS equipment are submitted by IT and the Police Department. The Administrator then prepares a Capital Budget to be reviewed by Trustee Committees as well as the CBAC.  The Village encourages constituent awareness and participation in this process through a series of meetings in which capital outlays are presented to the Board of Trustees, various committees and the public at large. As an example, the 2021 budget cycle included the following opportunities for public review and comment: 

Date
Description


December 2020
The draft capital budget was presented to the Board of Trustees and the public with each department presenting their respective operating and capital budget details.
January – March 2021
The draft budget was further vetted with the public in Citizens Budget Advisory Committee, Finance Committee and Board of Trustee meetings.
March 2021
The Operating Budget as well as the Capital Budget was introduced to the Board of Trustees and the public and initially approved.
April 2021
The Board of Trustees and the public were given further opportunity for review and comment and then the final approved budget was sent to the State for review and approval.


Before actually purchasing DVS equipment that has been approved in the capital budget, the IT and purchasing departments must demonstrate that qualifying equipment is purchased at the lowest price through either quotes, bid or a sanctioned purchasing co-op which negotiates lowest prices on behalf of all eligible purchasers. In the case of the 2020 and 2021 DVS capital requests, SOPD and IT have recommended the purchase of new equipment through a purchasing co-op. Even so, after capital budget approval and pricing vetting has occurred, a resolution must be prepared and approved by the Board of Trustees before the purchase is executed. These last steps occurred in October 2020 and April 2021, respectively, for cameras that were approved in the 2020 capital budget. At this time, further camera purchases have been paused until the Board of Trustees is able to review and modify the policies that govern how DVS equipment is purchased and deployed. 

 

  1. How many cameras does the Village have and how many cameras will be added to the projected total?

As of June 2021 the Village DVS comprises 20 functioning cameras.  This total does not include closed server locations that do not transmit into the SOPD monitors (e.g., pool and fire department cameras) or those that are deployed by others within our Village community (e.g., Orange and South Orange Maplewood School District, Seton Hall University, private residents, etc.).

Note that video cameras installed on School District properties within the Village must be accessible by Law Enforcement per the “Uniform State Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials” as required by the New Jersey Attorney General in section 7.4.1 of the MOA. In addition, many residents and businesses have registered their security cameras on our Village website to enable SOPD to quickly work with registered camera owners to possibly recover evidence or the identity of a potential suspect. This program is completely voluntary and does not grant SOPD open access to private security cameras. 

SOPD and the IT department have recommended that the Village spend $50,000 each year to expand the DVS. That could amount to 10-12 cameras each year at current pricing levels. The actual number of cameras that can be purchased varies with pricing timing and feature selection. Since purchases are paused and policy is undergoing review, there is not a set number of cameras planned for purchase this year. As described in the “Purchasing and Approving” section above, future expansion of the DVS is contingent on the executing the procurement process and ultimately on Board of Trustee approval. 


  1. Has the Village used video systems in the past and how often does the Village use the DVS?

The Village has utilized video systems since 1985. As technology has advanced the Village has continually upgraded video hardware and software to meet modern industry standards. SOPD routinely utilizes Village cameras to investigate motor vehicle crashes and criminal Investigations subject to the access parameters described below. 

  1. Who is the contractor that the Village uses to source and install its DVS equipment?

After a search for contractors was conducted, SOPD and IT identified Mind’s Eye Technologies LLC to upgrade and expand the Village DVS with Verkada cameras. As noted above, Mind’s Eye Technologies was contracted through a purchasing co-op to ensure that the Village receives the best available pricing, after they proposed a camera infrastructure solution that was practical and financially viable. 

  1. Where are DVS cameras located and how are locations selected?

The majority of Village cameras are located in the Village Center (aka Downtown Commercial District) and at intersections on County Roads (South Orange Avenue, Valley Street, Scotland Road, Irvington Avenue and North and South Wyoming Avenue). Camera locations are selected after reviewing and analyzing historic motor vehicle crash and reported criminal incident data.

  1. Who has access to live camera feeds and who can review stored footage? 

The cameras are linked to monitors that are housed in the SOPD dispatch communications center. There, Tour Commanders and other authorized personnel can view the camera footage. Some cameras permit live viewing; other cameras only provide intermittent live feeds. Only the Tour Commander may cue a camera’s intermittent feed to go live to address an urgent situation that requires supervisor attention.  Site administrators and investigators (Detectives, Department Leadership and/or Internal Affairs Officers) can access stored footage to conduct criminal and administrative investigations. These officers also may download and store evidentiary footage to be used in an investigation. 

  1. How do users utilize DVS footage and when is access authorized?

As has been the consistent past practice and described above, a small, select group of employees can access the DVS footage. Village IT employees are authorized to access the system only when diagnosing technical issues reported by the SOPD. SOPD user access is dictated by policy and relevant assignment. SOPD users are separated into two classifications, Site Administrators/Investigators and Police Supervisory Staff. 


Site Administrators and Investigators use the system as an investigation tool for incidents including but not limited to crimes, motor vehicle crashes, missing persons, and law enforcement conduct complaints. Upon opening an investigation, these users are authorized to access the system, review footage and download/archive footage. Downloaded and archived footage is retained for evidentiary or training purposes as Directed by the NJ Attorney General, Essex County Office of the Prosecutor and SOPD Administrative personnel. Download or archive retention requirements are set by law and regulation and cannot be reduced or altered.


Tour Commanders (Highest Ranked Officer Assigned to Patrol Shift) have the ability to view live DVS video feeds. Live video feed is also always available to Tour Commanders but they are not required to actively monitor the feed. Tour Commanders primarily utilize this tool when an incident occurs within the viewable range of a camera that requires immediate attention, such as a serious motor vehicle crash. The Tour Commander will use the live feed to provide critical information to responding Officers prior to their arrival. 


  1. Are the System Users Trained?

Yes – As dictated by South Orange Police Department Policy every user must receive training before they access the DVS. Training covers user/operator protocols based on their authorized access level. They also receive policy training which covers topics like authorized reasons for access, and state and federal law covering how to use footage. Data and information sharing is dictated by Federal and New Jersey Attorney General guidelines. 


  1. Where is the DVS footage stored and what measures does the Village take to protect stored data?

DVS playback footage is stored in locations that vary depending on the age and technological capabilities of the equipment and federal and state guidelines and is only accessible by authorized SOPD personnel as described above. DVS playback footage is either stored on a camera, on SOPD dedicated storage drives, or on Verkada cloud-based storage.


Village stored data is protected via several protocols and practices, for example:

  1. Data is password protected, and only authorized personnel have passwords,
  2. Transmitted data is encrypted and can only be done by authorized personnel, and
  3. Archived data is password protected and encrypted and only authorized personnel have passwords.

Our Village is particularly diligent with its IT security protocols; while many neighboring municipalities have been subject to IT security breaches, thus far the Village’s protective measures have proven to be effective against hackers and other cyber risks.


  1. What is our retention policy for downloaded and archived footage?

Downloaded and archived footage that is used for investigation purposes is retained for evidentiary or training purposes as directed by the NJ Attorney General, Essex County Office of the Prosecutor and SOPD Administrative personnel. Download or archive retention times are set by law and regulation and cannot be reduced or altered. Per our current service agreement with Mind’s Eye Technologies, non-evidentiary video is retained for 30 days at which time it is deleted/overwritten.


  1. How secure is the footage on the Verkada servers?

A recently published article stated that a malicious actor gained access to Verkada’s system. This breach, as described by Verkada, was preventable and was the direct result of a hack of a server where passwords were stored. The company addressed the breach and has instituted new security measures to avoid this type of breach in the future. Follow this link (https://www.verkada.com/security-update/) for the complete statement, actions taken and description of the attack in Verkada’s own words. It should be noted that all software and technology manufacturers must continually update and fortify their products since there is an increasingly large number of malicious actors attempting to exploit every software weakness to gather data for their own agenda. 


Some highlights of Verkada’s security protocols are listed below: 

  1. 30 days of video securely encrypted on solid state storage with AES 128 encryption at rest
  2. Video feeds, thumbnails, firmware updates and settings securely transmitted between cloud and device 
    with AES 128 and TLS v1.2 encryptions in transit
  3. Archived videos, user history and audit logs are securely stored in AWS with AES 256 encryption at rest
  4. 2-factor authentication, RBAC, SAML/SSO integration provides secure access across platform with AES 128 and 
    TLS v1.2 encryptions at rest

  1. What is facial recognition and does SOPD use this tool?

NortonLifeLock Inc1 describes how facial recognition works in a four-step process2 as follows:

Step 1. A picture of your face is captured from a photo or video. Your face might appear alone or in a crowd. Your image may show you looking straight ahead or nearly in profile.

Step 2. Facial recognition software reads the geometry of your face. Key factors include the distance between your eyes and the distance from forehead to chin. The software identifies facial landmarks — one system identifies 68 of them — that are key to distinguishing your face. The result: your facial signature.

Step 3. Your facial signature — a mathematical formula — is compared to a database of known faces. And consider this: at least 117 million Americans have images of their faces in one or more police databases. According to a May 2018 report, the FBI has had access to 412 million facial images for searches.

Step 4. A determination is made. Your faceprint may match that of an image in a facial recognition system database.

Our newest Verkada cameras come with “People Analytics”, “Person History” and “Face Search” capabilities3 that enable Step 1 and 2 above. People Analytics uses cameras to detect people and faces, and filter results based on clothing color, apparent sex, and the presence of backpacks. Person History is used to search for faces and for people by clothing color on a particular camera or all cameras. Face Search leverages People History to filter results by a particular face and so can be used to determine whether a particular face was captured at multiple camera locations.

For Steps 3 and 4 - to compile data points from a captured image and search a database for potential matches, a SOPD Investigator uses a software program that accesses a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) and compares a suspect image to those stored in the database. The database compiles arrest records in which captured images are verified by fingerprints. The SOPD has used this program for over ten years and there is only one officer who is authorized to deploy this technology. This tool is reserved for only certain serious offenses and so is typically deployed only a few times each year.

In 2019, the New Jersey Attorney General banned the use of facial recognition systems that pull from social media sources, for example the widely publicized Clearview AI capabilities. 

  1. Does the SOPD use the “Face Search” feature in the Verkada cameras; how and why?

Site Administrators and Investigators have the authority, while conducting criminal investigations, to utilize the “Face Search” tool. If an incident is captured by the DVS we will retain this footage for investigative purposes and may have images of all involved parties (Suspects, Victims, Witnesses). The Face Search feature can then be utilized, if necessary, to track involved parties’ movements throughout the Village before and after an incident has occurred thereby greatly reducing the hours involved conducting a manual search via traditional methods. The improved resolution, search tools and technology incorporated into our DVS provides better evidence to meet the legal standards required to obtain a criminal conviction in the courts. Please note that each face detected must be evaluated by a trained experienced investigator to determine if said face is relevant to the investigation. This is part of the regular fact-finding and investigation process used to confirm or deny suspect involvement in reported criminal incidents. 

  1. What measures does SOPD take to compensate for the inherent bias that underlies facial detection and recognition tools?

Because facial detection and recognition tools can be biased against women and people of color, SOPD Investigators have not and will not charge someone with a crime based only on facial recognition. Facial recognition results require human screening, because they’re probable matches, not exact matches. In general, SOPD cross checks and verifies information through law enforcement and investigatory methods that are either best practices or required by Federal and State laws and guidelines. Those methods include but are not limited to: sequential photo line ups, witness statements, forensics, information obtained through search warrants or other fact finding deployed at or near a crime scene to determine if a suspect is charged. These practices are dictated by Federal law and New Jersey Attorney General guidelines on intelligence gathering concepts.

  1. Does the Village have signage placed to mark cameras?

As of June 2021, the Village has not installed signage to mark camera locations. We are currently considering signage locations as an additional public safety measure and hope to gather formal research that address whether camera signage increases the effectiveness of our DVS as a crime deterrent. 


  1. What is the current SOPD DVS policy proposal? 
    Prior to deploying the latest cameras SOPD initiated an investigation into existing DVS policies utilized by our law enforcement partners 
    and neighbors. Surveyed law enforcement agencies serving communities similar in size to the Village did not have policies in place to 
    this type of system. As a result, SOPD looked to policies deployed by larger municipalities for guidance. The resulting policy proposal is 
    based on that data, tailored to the needs and available resources of our community. To review that policy, 
    please follow this link: Digital Video System Policy

  2. Do Village elected officials support the SOPD DVS program?  The Board of Trustees (BOT) approved the 2021 capital budget in April of 2021, which includes a $50,000 appropriation for DVS cameras, and so is supportive of the SOPD DVS program. During the process of sharing and vetting the capital plan with the community, several constituents reached out and expressed views and concerns related to the cameras. Constituent input falls within a broad continuum ranging from the suggestion that we discontinue our use of cameras completely to the suggestion that we considerably expand the Village DVS program. As a result, the BOT has requested that the Village administrative team pause further camera purchases to enable time for further community input and diligence associated with updating the policies surrounding how the SOPD deploys the DVS. We have asked the Community Policy Collaborative (CPC) for help in this regard and have started to review policy white papers and academic research that is available online, as well as policy suggestions made by a CPC subcommittee and individual residents. Some of those recommendations can be reviewed on the CPC’s website, which can be accessed at https://outreachcpc.org. Once we have completed our outreach and related diligence, we will take appropriate and transparent steps to update the DVS policy. Constituents who have an interest in this topic will be able to follow progress by attending Health & Public Safety Committee and/or BOT meetings and can check published agendas to determine whether the DVS program is scheduled for discussion. Interested constituents can also join our Village-wide DVS listening session at 7:00 pm on July 21, 2021 (DVS Calendar Entry) or access our online form at https://forms.gle/tFPTwbGLwjyAFCyR9 to provide further input.

  3. Is there academic research that addresses whether cameras are an effective crime prevention measure? 
    As noted above, we are looking to review academic research related to the camera efficacy as a public safety tool. One member of the CPC has provided us with a study entitled “CCTV Surveillance for Crime Prevention: A 40-Year Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis”4 that suggests that cameras can be an effective crime deterrent, particularly when deployed with additional interventions. As noted by the authors: "Findings show that CCTV is associated with a significant and modest decrease in crime. The largest and most consistent effects of CCTV were observed in car parks. The analysis also generated evidence of significant crime reductions within other settings, particularly residential areas. CCTV schemes incorporating active monitoring generated larger effect sizes than passive systems. Schemes deploying multiple interventions alongside CCTV generated larger effect sizes than schemes deploying single or no other interventions alongside CCTV." We are open to further review of formal research that would help us to weigh DVS efficacy as a crime deterrent against the related financial and non-financial tradeoffs as implement state of the art policies and best practices guiding their use.

[1] NortonLifeLock Inc. (NASDAQ: NLOK) is a global leader in consumer Cyber Safety, protecting and empowering people to live their digital lives safely. We are the consumer’s trusted ally in an increasingly complex and connected world. Learn more about how we’re transforming Cyber Safety at www.NortonLifeLock.com.

[2] https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-iot-how-facial-recognition-software-works.html

[3] https://help.verkada.com/en/articles/3207895-people-analytics

[4] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1745-9133.12419, Piza, E., Welsh, B., Farrington, D. and Thomas, A. (2019). CCTV Surveillance for Crime Prevention: A 40-Year Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. Criminology & Public Policy,18(1): 135-159.