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GCN : July 2014
The Boston Police Department's use of social media after the Boston Marathon bombing last year has been lauded as a game changer for police investigations. Now of cials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) see an op- portunity to make such crowdsourcing even more effective. After the bomb went off at the mara- thon, the Boston Police Department asked the public to send pictures and video of the area around the nish line to help identify suspicious packages and people, said Cmdr. Scott Edson of the Technical Services Division at LASD. "The public sent lots of pic- tures and videos, and it com- pletely overwhelmed the Boston Police Department because they were not prepared for that amount of information," he said. A lack of storage and comput- ing capacity is not uncommon at law enforcement agencies, Edson said, which is why LASD partnered with a commercial rm to set up a data warehouse that could be used during large-scale emergencies. Amazon Web Services (AWS) offered its scalable cloud service, Edson added, and CitizenGlobal, a startup that already served as a storehouse for media im- ages and video, agreed to set up a Large Emergency Event Digital Informa- tion Repository (LEEDIR) to be used by law enforcement agencies at no charge. The LEEDIR "eyewitness platform" provides a central repository where photos and images can be collabora- tively managed, organized and analyzed by one or multiple participating agen- cies. Copies of all les are automati- cally transcoded into a single format so they can be viewed through a media management Web interface, and the originals are stored in case they can be used as evidence. Front-end services include automatic user reviewing and tracking of con- tent for collaborative analysis, folder management, transcoding, download- ing, user permissions, administrative commenting and notes, search, Global Positioning System and IP tracking, and le metadata extraction, according to the LEEDIR website. On the back end sits AWS. Law enforcement agencies must meet two criteria before they can use LEEDIR: The event must involve mul- tiple jurisdictions or disciplines, and it must have either at least 5,000 people in attendance or cover at least 5 square miles. Currently, there is no service for smaller events, although Edson said he expects one will evolve out of this. To activate LEEDIR, an of cial visits LEEDIR.us, lls out a short question- naire and follows up with a con rmation phone call. "Within just a few minutes, the activation can be up and running," Edson said. "Once it's activated, the cloud and all access to data that's in the cloud is controlled by law enforcement." People who want to submit photos or videos can go to the website or download a LEEDIR mobile app for free onto their Apple or Android devices and upload les from their computers, a webcam, Facebook, Google-Plus, Ins- tagram or YouTube. "It's not designed for law enforce- ment of cers to be used for evidence," Edson said. "It's designed for the public to send us videos and pictures that may help us." All data goes to the AWS cloud. Analysts sort and organize it by creat- ing folders. In the case of the marathon bombing, police could have created a folder for images of people wearing white hats and another for images of abandoned backpacks. Then agents study each folder for clues. One agency can run multiple activations simultaneously, and LEEDIR facilitates informa- tion sharing not only within a responding agency but among departments. For instance, if the FBI takes over a case, the local agency can set FBI of cials up with access to its repository. At the end of the event, the agency can download the con- tainer of original evidence to a local environment and erase the rest or leave it all in the cloud and pay to put it in long-term storage, Edson said. On April 9, the Santa Barbara County, Calif., Sheriff's Of ce became the rst law enforcement agency to use LEEDIR. It's asking for public input in its ongoing investigation of riots in Isla Vista the week before. Edson expects the next versions of LEEDIR to add the ability to take data off hard drives. Organizations are also asking for an application for high-threat events -- stadiums full of spectators, for example, Edson said. "The return on investment, we hope, is that we will see less terrorism be- cause if we have terrorist acts, there's a good chance that the public is going to help us catch them," he said. • Police tap 'eyewitness' multimedia platform BY STEPHANIE KANOWITZ [BrieFing] 6 GCN JULY 2014 • GCN.COM LEEDIR provides a central cloud-based repository where police can manage, organize and analyze photos and images. AP IMAGES