SCENARIO 3 | Thermal V Night Vision Comparison- Episode 3 Urban Group Surveillance


The third scenario simulates recorded surveillance video of a known drug deal/bad-guy meet location behind a local strip mall. The officers have set up in a concealed location to film this corner where criminal activity is often committed by gang members according local residents. The hope is that the police department can identify the drug dealers/trouble-makers and start building cases against them. However, PID must be achieved in order for evidence to be admissible in court.

The video starts out through a thermal imager. We can clearly see four subjects gathered in conversation at the back corner of this L-shaped strip mall. The overall height and build of the subjects can be identified as well as their clothing type. It can be confirmed that we are observing four grown males. All are wearing short sleeve shirts while two are in shorts and flip-flops and two are in pants and shoes. Ball caps can be seen on all of them. We can clearly see the subjects loitering about, talking and interacting with small electronic devices. The detail level is quite good overall. We can see that the shortest subject has a beard that gets longer at the chin and the suspect facing the camera also has facial hair. However, it is impossible to identify the faces of the subjects or their ethnicity. We can certainly see other details such as the fact that the subject facing the camera is wearing cargo pants and seems to be chewing gum. When one of the subjects motions to something in the distance, causing the closest subject to turn around, we can clearly see that he is wearing glasses and has a beard.

The second half of the video shows the same group of subjects through night vision. Again, we can immediately recognize four grown males as well as their height and build. We can see that they are all light-skinned; possibly White or Hispanic. While the ethnicity cannot be clearly ascertained, it is possible to rule out that we are observing Black males or darker-skinned individuals. Clothing can be identified as two subjects wearing pants, two wearing shorts, and all wearing ball caps. Printed shirt graphics can also be seen as well as the overall brightness/tones of the shirts. This information could be useful if a crime is committed during the surveillance and the observing officers need to provide an immediate description of the suspects to other officers. One of the main things to note is that facial features can be recognized enough to identify individuals.

Both thermal and night vision provided a good nighttime surveillance tool. The location was quite dark with any surrounding light sources facing away from the scene. Regular video surveillance would have been impossible. Depending on the mission, thermal or night vision could make an effective tool for monitoring individuals or areas. For a business or personal security system, thermal will definitely provide good data and allow users to recognize prominent features on individuals. Night vision provided this same data, but allowed the individuals to be identified. For professional use, this is an important point. Law enforcement officers need to make a case and be able to prove everything in court beyond a reasonable doubt. Warfighters need to identify subjects while working up target packages. But, civilian property owners may just need to see that there are people who shouldn’t be there, doing things they shouldn’t be doing. In that case, either technology will suffice in the dark. This particular scenario showed a video from a good vantage point where the four subjects could be clearly seen. Obviously, this is not always going to be the case during a surveillance operation. The thermal device being used was a 19mm 640×480 1X monocular. The night vision device was a Gen3 monocular.

See Scenario 4 Here

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