FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!

DrugTest 5000 - Draeger Safety Diagnostics Inc
In the past, roadside drug screening has been difficult because it involved the...

Exclusive Webinar!

Originally aired: June 17, 2014  ● 2PM EST

View Webinar Archive Here

Integrated Law Enforcement Complements and Completes Law Enforcement Capabilities

Discover how the combination of intelligence analysis, lead generation, agency collaboration, and communications integration can help you uncover issues faster and take action sooner. Learn how innovative IBM law enforcement solutions can extend the capabilities within your organization to deal with new and emerging threats, improve officer safety, reduce criminal activity, and protect the public. 

Join IBM industry expert Stephen Dalzell and members from the MDPD, IT and homeland security departments of the Miami Dade police department to hear more!

Click here to view archive

 

Departments : First Look

Secret Agent: Sur-Tec's VP Covert App

Sur-Tec’s VP software suite turns a smartphone into a lifeline for undercover officers.

May 03, 2011  |  by - Also by this author


Sur-Tec's VP Covert Audio and GPS software runs on the Windows Mobile Platform and replaces RF body wires. Photo: Sur-Tec.

There's a pivotal scene in almost every cop movie ever made since the 1960s. The undercover officer or the reluctant confidential informant meets with the criminal boss while wearing a wire and things go horribly wrong.

They go horribly wrong in real life, too. "We had one customer put it like this: 'You get caught wearing a wire, and it's a very bad day. It hardly ever ends well,'" says Todd Dupriest, CEO of Lenexa, Kan.-based Sur-Tec.

Since its founding 25 years ago, Sur-Tec has specialized in covert video and video surveillance tools. And one tool that the company has always wanted to improve is the radio frequency (RF) body wire. In 2009, Sur-Tec rolled out a new product that may make the RF body wire as obsolete as the buggy whip.

Sur-Tec's VP Covert Audio and GPS software suite is a patented surreptitious listening tool for law enforcement that allows an undercover officer or CI to stream live audio and GPS to one or more computers. The mobile application element of the software runs in the background on the user's smartphone.

Back in 2008 when Sur-Tec was developing VP, a computer engineering association magazine declared that streaming audio live over smartphones without latency (buffering) was not possible with current technology. Sur-Tec's engineers knew that it would be difficult, but they didn't agree that it was impossible.

"We're not using a voice channel," explains Dupriest. "We are streaming audio and that was technically challenging. Our customers demand as close to zero latency as humanly possible."

Concealment and speed are not the only benefits of the VP system over conventional RF wires. The range of RF body wires is limited by the power of their transmitters, urban clutter such as buildings, and the presence of a repeater. In contrast, VP has no range limits.

VP's data stream can be sent to any computer equipped with the software anywhere in the world. At last year's National Technical Investigators Association (NATIA) annual training conference in suburban Dallas-Fort Worth, Sur-Tec demonstrated the capabilities of VP by streaming data live to the show from Maui, Kansas City, and New York.

Of course, the capabilities of VP are affected by the quality of the cellular data network in the area of operation. "We're infrastructure dependent," says Dupriest. "Our system is as good as the network on which it operates." VP was developed to run on Sprint's 3G network. When that's not available, the system roams until it finds an appropriate signal. It can also be set up to use a Wi-Fi signal.

Also, if the signal drops, VP is designed to ensure that the undercover officer or informant still has a record of the conversation. The software transforms the phone into a surreptitious digital audio recorder. In addition, a data connection is re-established automatically once a signal is available without any action by the user.

Monitors can also send signals through vibrations to the undercover operative. The system allows the cover officers to buzz the operative's phone with either a two-second or a five-second pulse that could be used as a warning or an alert.

Dupriest says he realizes that savvy criminals may soon catch on to the use of smartphones for surveillance, but that doesn't invalidate VP. "It's a matter of officer safety," Dupriest argues. If the bad guy finds something on you, let him find a cell phone. Worst case scenario: he takes it or you have to destroy it to prove it's a cell phone. Go ahead, destroy it. It's just a cell phone. The other side of that coin is: you get caught with a wire."

VP is now available for the Windows Mobile platform. Sur-Tec is working on an Android version. The software sells for $4,995 per device for a lifetime license. Sur-Tec also offers a monthly plan for qualifying agencies.

Tags: Apps, Surveillance, Sur-Tec, Undercover Investigations, Smartphones

Request more info about this product / service / company


Be the first to comment on this story





POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Stories

Cyber Security: Locking Down the Databases
Computer security is one of the primary concerns for many of the nation's companies and...
Why You Should Double Check for Accuracy
Although law enforcement officers are given considerable leeway for reasonable mistakes,...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
It's easy! Just fill in the form below and click the red button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.
First Name:
Last Name:
Rank:
Agency:
Address:
City:
State:
  
Zip Code:
 
Country:
We respect your privacy. Please let us know if the address provided is your home, as your RANK / AGENCY will not be included on the mailing label.
E-mail Address:

Police Magazine