With its ability to operate night or day, “see” through foliage and can be used in various weather conditions, infrared thermal imagers can be used in a variety of surveillance and border control situations.
Cross-border and perimeter surveillance: In manhunt or crisis situations, one of the first operational actions is to set up a perimeter. Handheld or vehicle-mounted thermal imagers can make this perimeter more effective in containing and apprehending suspects or detecting and preventing unwanted intruders from invading a restricted area. Highly restricted facilities, such as correctional institutions or industrial plants, can monitor their perimeters night and day with the aid of a thermal imager.
Fugitive Searches: Thermal imagers are excellent at finding people hiding in foliage, regardless of the time of day. By locating a fugitive with a thermal imager, officers can approach and apprehend a suspect without giving away their own location or risking dangerous confrontations. Blind sweeps involving many officers are not needed.
Routine Patrols: The greatest benefit of a thermal imager is the ability to see in darkness. This provides a tremendous advantage during routine patrols and special surveillance missions. Thermal imagers are effective tools in locating discarded contraband or evidence, during undercover stakeout operations or during narcotics interdiction. On the water, thermal imagers are used for nighttime navigation, to locate and track vessels and for search and rescue operations. The passive nature of thermal imaging allows investigators to conduct surveillance undetected and without violating citizens’ rights of privacy.
1. Can thermal imaging cameras really see through walls?
No. The cameras only “see” heat as it radiates off an object. It may see the heat coming from a house, but it can’t see into the house because the camera picks up the house’s exterior thermal profile first. The thermal imager doesn’t even see through glass, because glass has its own thermal profile.
2. Can it see through clothes?
Not really. If a suspect had a gun under his/her coat, the exterior area of the coat would appear “cooler” to the camera and indicate to the police the person may be carrying a gun.
3. How is law enforcement using this technology?
o Officer Safety: locates threats such as hidden suspects, guard dogs and dangerous obstacles;
o Search and Rescue: vision at night; covers large areas quickly and with less manpower;
o Vehicle Pursuits: see vehicles driving without headlights from the air; detects heat of recently-driven vehicles in crowded parking lot or remote area.