Local firm using new surveillance technology in terrorism fight

A screen grab from Crescent Guardian's software
A screen grab from Crescent Guardian's software

As thousands of people move in and out of the city this weekend, authorities are on heightened alert following a global travel advisory, issued Friday by the U.S. State Department.

However, Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson says folks in our area shouldn't alter their plans.

"I think the best that could be said right now is that we have no information that leads to believe there's any type of threat to the state of Louisiana," he said.

Still, Edmonson encourages anyone who may notice suspicious activity to alert authorities.

Smartphone owners can actually upload information or even photos directly through an app called See Something, Send Something.

"They can do it anonymously or they can give their information. They can say, you know what, that doesn't seem right. Take a picture and send it in and we can follow up on it," Edmonson said.

It's something one local company is doing on a much larger scale across the country.

Crescent Guardian Inc. – a security firm based in New Orleans - is helping companies and even government entities identify potential terrorism threats as they happen, through the use of high-tech surveillance software.

"Essentially, [the software] takes existing video feeds, digitizes the images and then takes a look at the images. And when it sees any kind of anomalous or unusual behavior, it will report on that," said Crescent Guardian Vice President Ray Cavanagh.

The software tags images in a camera's field of view, picks up patterns and then reacts if something is amiss.

Cavanagh showed us some real-life examples of the technology in action – including video feeds from busy intersections and subway terminals in other major cities.

"The system identifies that as behavior that doesn't typically happen, it's outside the scope of the pattern, and we'll react to that and send it as an incident," he said. "So, rather than having a person sit at a bank of monitors or screens, all they really have to see is that there is some type of anomalous behavior happening. The system will automatically alert that person."

Cavanagh says it's already being put to use in several major cities across the U.S. and in our area at the Port of Fourchon.

Meanwhile, as this current travel alert continues, authorities in our area say they're remaining in close contact with federal officials.

"If we have any information that would lead us to believe there's any credible threat to not only here in New Orleans, we're gonna send that information out," Edmonson said.