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January 27, 2004
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Video Technology Gives Brattleboro, VT Police a New Edge in Fighting Crime

By JUSTIN MASON
Reformer Staff

BRATTLEBORO -- Police continue to reap the benefits of a federal grant that allows them to purchase technology, Chief John Martin said on Monday.

Detectives at the Brattleboro Police Department have been training on video equipment and software that was recently purchased using a Community Oriented Policing Services grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The new equipment enables investigators to convert, transfer, enhance and print video footage that is taken from crime-scene security cameras.

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"This is a great example of when these grants have really benefited the police department," Martin said.

Detectives Michael Gorman and Erik Johnson are currently using the equipment to crack a recent criminal investigation stemming from a gas station burglary last week.

Johnson said the darkened image of one burglar was caught by a security camera while he was stealing rolls of lottery tickets at the gas station. Before the owner of the station could report the robbery, the man had already cashed in several winning tickets at another area service station.

Using tracking codes, investigators were able to track down the station where the cards were redeemed, Johnson said. That station owner provided police with a second, blurred image of the robber, taken from a video security camera.

Ordinarily, neither of the images would have been of much use to investigators, due to their poor quality, Johnson said. But using the new technology, investigators were able to digitize analog video and enhance the quality of images far beyond previous capabilities.

Using an ADVC-100 adapter -- an analog video-digital converter -- Johnson was able to transfer footage taken at both stations onto a computer hard drive. With digitized video, Johnson used Avid Xpress -- an advanced video editing program -- to slowly sift through individual video frames and collect the clearest still images of the robber. The resulting images were enlarged and brightened with another graphic editing program to create a clearer picture of a suspect, Johnson said, which will help.

"Not only can we edit these images, we can now put them into an e-mail and send them to all the police departments in the region," he said. "It''s an excellent tool."

Previously, the department had to rely on outside sources to pull images from security cameras, Johnson said. But with the new adapter, investigators can convert video recorded on 8 mm, VHS and time lapse cameras, he said.

Police will also use the new equipment to produce public service announcements, Johnson said. Videos will be edited and burned onto DVDs for airing on BCTV, he said.

"It''s amazing what we can do with this," he said.



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