The Rise of Video Evidence - 2021 Trends in Video Evidence

To identify the latest trends in video evidence, we surveyed hundreds of professionals across the industry.

The results of this survey have been brought together in the 2021 Video Evidence trends reportcomplete with 6 key findings, 20 visual graphs, and guidance on how industry leaders can navigate the quickly changing landscape of video evidence.

In this article, we will share a video summary of the data, plus a sample of the actual report. Download the full report for free, or preview some of the content below:

Video Evidence Trends: Top 6 Key Findings

We summarized all of the data into 6 Key Findings. Check out the list below, or view the full report for in-depth analysis on what these findings mean for the investigator:

1) Organizations recognize the growing value and importance of video evidence for investigations, yet they often struggle with technical issues.

2) Playing video files is a constant challenge for investigators. They may spend significant amounts of time searching for free video players that, in the end, provide very limited results.

3) To address the growing demands that video plays within investigations, there is a movement to equip investigators with the proper tools to help accelerate case closure.

4) Training is critical. Video is not always what it appears to be, and practitioners who lack proper training may inadvertently change the perception of events.

5) Organizations need to understand the limitations with video enhancements.

6) Budgets for video investigation software and training are set to increase 12% in 2021

Going Deeper: The Growing Importance of Video Evidence

The following is a small portion of the full report. This preview will dig deeper into the first two key findings, but the report includes additional insights for all key findings.

Organizations recognize the growing utility and importance of video evidence for investigations.

The survey revealed that 94% agree or strongly agree that video is a critical source of evidence in investigations. And when the question is reviewed for investigators / detectives specifically, 96% agree that video is a critical source of evidence in investigations, highlighting the importance video evidence plays in solving cases.

This finding is similar to what was revealed in a recent 2020 study from the Centre for Criminology at the University of South Wales:

“In nearly all homicide investigations, CCTV was featured in some capacity: for example, to identify (or eliminate) suspects, to link suspects to key exhibits, to show movements and associations, or to support the prosecution case.”

Video Evidence Trends: How Critical is Video Evidence?

Video Frequency, Sources, and Challenges

The proliferation and acceptance of video is proving to be a powerful and important component of today’s modern investigations.

The survey showed that public video surveillance such as CCTV & ATM cameras, as well as smartphone cameras and body-worn cameras, are the most frequent video evidence sources that practitioners encounter.

When examining the data by unit, respondents who work in Video Units reported higher review of public video surveillance, with 92% citing very frequently or frequently.

In addition, Major Crimes units reported higher review of interview room cameras, with 71% citing very frequently or frequently. Finally, Traffic / Accident Reconstruction units reported higher review of dash cameras, with 87% citing very frequently or frequently.

The survey demonstrated that although different units prioritize different video sources, nearly all of them believe that video is a critical source of evidence.

Many practitioners who are investigating video evidence have not completed formal training, though.

Video Evidence Trends: Video Formats encountered by police investigators

Practitioners frequently encounter several video evidence sources. However, technical challenges prevent investigations from operating smoothly. Practitioners face major barriers, including the following:

  • Accurately playing video
  • Converting video to standard formats
  • Extracting stills for reports
  • Initial recovery
  • Enhancing video
  • Aligning multiple sources of video into a single demonstrative clip

The survey found that 94% of respondents face technical challenges when trying to play video.   

A study at the University of South Wales also highlighted the technical challenges associated with viewing CCTV, such as playing the video or capturing still images. For example, the study mentioned:

“We observed the CCTV officer repeatedly viewing footage in order to capture a still image of a suspect running up the street. On this occasion, the CCTV officer did not have the capability to pin-point frames or play frames at a faster or slower speed, which resulted in duplication of effort and time wastage.”[2]

Video Evidence Trends: Technical Challenges with Video Evidence

What if Videos Cannot Be Played?

Playback of video is a real challenge for practitioners. The survey revealed that when a video cannot be viewed with standard tools, 50% search the internet for free video players.

On average, investigators who search for free players spend 83 minutes per case on this task. Unfortunately, the time will be wasted because most free conversion tools will alter the video and play it incorrectly, which can change the perception of events or lead to the video being dismissed from court.

In addition, 45% of respondents stated they contact their software vendor for support. The data showed that well-trained practitioners are more likely to contact software vendors (66%) compared to untrained practitioners (only 23%).

The data also revealed that users of iNPUT-ACE software are 1.5x more likely to contact their software vendor when the video file cannot be played (54% for iNPUT-ACE users vs. 35% for non-iNPUT-ACE users), and by doing so, resulted in twice the success rate in getting the video to play properly.

Finally, the survey found that one in five practitioners seek support from their IT organization. Such demands on IT teams can cause bottlenecks in investigations and can adversely affect the chances of successfully solving cases.

video evidence trends: what if a video cannot be played?

[1] Professor Fiona Brookman, Dr Helen Jones, Professor Robin Williams, and Professor Jim Fraser. (April 2020). The Use of CCTV during Homicide Investigations: Contributions, Challenges and Risks. Centre for Criminology, University of South Wales.

[2] Ibid.

This concludes our preview of the 2021 Video Evidence Trends Report. To view the entire document, simply enter your details below:

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