Preventing terrorism with new surveillance camera technology

Software program alerts police of suspicious, out-of-the-ordinary behavior

HOUSTON - When it comes to preventing and solving crimes, surveillance video is only as good as the person looking at it.
But what if the cameras could learn to spot suspicious behavior before a crime is committed?

This new technology is already in place in the Houston area.

After the Boston marathon bombings, it was surveillance and other photos that helped catch the two suspects.

Now there's a company that says those same cameras can prevent crimes like that from happening in the first place.

It's a software program tied into existing surveillance cameras and it looks for suspicious or out-of-the-ordinary behavior. Police are then alerted to this suspicious activity.

In one actual surveillance video, captured in an undisclosed location outside of Houston at a train platform, a man put something suspicious under a bench. The camera noticed it and placed a red box around it, alerting authorities.

"We are trying to identify through video feeds what anomalous behavior is occurring," said Ray Cavanagh with software technology company Crescent Guardian. "If it's something out of the ordinary, it warrants a second look and should be responded."

It's not just packages. The software highlights other odd events, like video of a car following a train through a tunnel or where someone left a bag unintended.

In all these cases police or others were notified.

While none of these examples took place in the Houston area, Cavanagh said he has clients in Houston. For security reasons though, he can't disclose specifically what offices or agencies.

"It's not a magic pill in and of itself," said Cavanagh. "The video is out there. We know the video systems exist."

Cavanagh said outfitting an existing camera with this technology could run $5,000.

"Most importantly of all, what's the cost of a human life?" said Cavanagh. "A human life is worth trying to save and so if there are security events that we can prevent, such as some of the events that have occurred recently, it's well worth the price."

In addition to Houston, this surveillance software is also being used in Austin, El Paso and San Antonio.

Copyright 2013 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.