Police are to work with the academics are to program cameras to spot criminals while they commit a crime.
The cameras will be able to detect glass smashing, violent behaviour and abandoned bags, the university said.
"We will program computers to recognise criminal activity while it is happening," said Dr Bogdan Vrusias, from the university's computing department. "Criminals will be caught red-handed, with images of violent behaviour on our streets being detected."
In a joint venture between the Police Scientific Development Branch, the Home Office, and academic investigators from the University of Surrey and Kingston University, scientists will develop a system called REVEAL - Recovering Evidence from Video by Fusing Video Evidence Thesaurus and Video Meta-Data.
Currently it takes four hours to review one hour of CCTV footage, the university said. The new method could trace criminals in a matter of minutes using feature recognition technology.
The prject was designed to meet the Home Office's five-year plan to ensure the police was equipped to use technology to deliver effective law enforcement.
The partners expect that the system will integrate all with HOLMES 2, the investigation management system used by police forces to collect intelligence data.