Seon has been providing mobile surveillance systems and fleet management solutions to school districts across North America for almost two decades, and over the years our customers have cited that camera system reliability and image quality are the key factors they continue choosing Seon solutions over any other vendor. These two factors are gaining in popularity with stop arm camera implementations. Districts are relying on the camera image quality and DVR reliability to capture stop-arm violators in action. If a DVR fails to record a stop-arm incident, no evidence of the violation will be available to identify the vehicle and notify the driver of their error, allowing this behavior to continue and risking the lives of students in the future. But another important factor is the ability to provide admissible video evidence. Key to this is credibility and authentication. You need to be able to prove that the evidence was collected and delivered without tampering.
In this article, we’ll share a few strategies to ensure you get on the right path to delivering clear, credible and most importantly admissible video evidence.
- Choose a vendor with a track record for reliability
Ensuring your stop-arm supplier has a track record of reliability is an essential step in choosing the right stop-arm solution. With over 250,000 systems sold across North America, Seon’s systems have proven to be reliable, one customer citing less than a .01% failure rate in his fleet. This low failure rate is a result of careful design and expertise of engineers who architect our products to withstand the rigors of the road.
One example of this is how the DVR is designed to withstand high vibration levels so that high-capacity hard disk drives (HDDs) can be used for reliable recording. The use of hard drives vs. SD memory cards helps increase the capacity and lifespan of your recording medium, ensuring you always capture what is most important.
Dale Dunham, Assistant Transportation Director at Centralia School District #401, Washington, has Seon camera systems on his school buses. He claims that there have been no problems in any loss of footage. Mr. Dunham states, “Our Seon hard drives work superbly. There have been no issues at all, and they are easy to use — you plug them in, usage is simple, and point blank, they work. I have absolutely no complaints with our hard drives, and it is great to be able to rely on Seon’s DVR systems.”
- Verify stop-arm violation image quality
A critical next step in choosing the right stop-arm solution is verifying the quality of the cameras used to capture license plates of stop-arm violators. “There are really two key factors in consistently and accurately capturing the license plates of vehicles illegally passing a school bus — camera position and image quality,” says Lori Jetha, Marketing Manager at Seon. “Even if you install the cameras in the right position, the camera must be designed to provide high-resolution images, clear enough to capture the license plates of vehicles passing at potentially high speeds.”
Not just any camera can be mounted outdoors to capture details like a license plate number. It must be an outdoor-rated camera, built to stand up to extreme humidity or the pressure of a bus wash. At least two external cameras with high resolution, one mounted near roof level facing forward and one facing back below the stop arm, will capture incidents in both directions. At least an 8 mm lens is recommended to capture license plate numbers. High-definition cameras are ideal for zooming in on license plates to identify violators.
- Collecting & Preserving Admissible Video Evidence
To improve your chances of successful stop-arm violation prosecution, there are some basic rules to follow when producing video evidence admissible in court. First, there is the principle of preservation, or how you keep and maintain your video evidence. You need to ensure that the video chain of custody is not broken and there is no opportunity to tamper with the video. Part of preservation is ensuring video is securely stored and only accessed by authorized personnel. We suggest that you develop a video surveillance policy that is publicly posted that specifies the ‘who, what, when, where and how’ of your video collection and storage procedures. This policy can be referenced in court top prove your evidence has been properly preserved.
Another key factor in ensuring admissible evidence is your ability to authenticate your video evidence. In other words, how can you prove it has not been altered or modified and that it is a true and accurate presentation of the events as they happened. To ensure video authenticity look for a video vendor that can deliver key features that will allow you to authenticate the evidence. Some features you might want to add to the ‘must have’ list are
Some features you might want to add to the ‘must have’ list are video that is integrated with GPS coordinates, has date/time stamp, and uses a proprietary video format only accessible with password by authorized users. One additional feature is an ‘anti-tampering’ data check on each video file that verifies it has not been altered once collected. Seon’s video playback software offers a data validation feature that identifies when a file has changed in any way.
- Check State Laws
Consider also whether your state has legislation that allows for automated cameras or video recording systems to detect and prosecute individuals illegally passing school buses. If state or local laws do not allow for the use of automated cameras on school buses, there may be an issue using the video evidence in court.
Also, understand any particular requirements in delivering stop-arm camera evidence. For example, in North Carolina, stop-arm evidence must include a camera view that identifies the driver of the vehicle. Failure to produce this could lead to your evidence being thrown out of court. This is an important feature and may require an additional camera view.
With Seon, adding the capability to capture stop-arm violations can be as simple and cost effective as adding exterior cameras to your existing system. Investing in your own stop-arm solution ensures you get complete coverage of your entire fleet and you maintain the chain of custody for your video footage.
Choosing the right stop-arm solution can be tricky if not done right from the start. We hope these handy tips will set you on the right path to student safety.
Marketing Manager, Seon