The use of contextual information can significantly aid scene understanding of surveillance video. Just detecting people and tracking them does not provide sufficient information to detect situations that require operator attention. We propose a proof-of-concept system that uses several sources of contextual information to improve scene understanding in surveillance video. The focus is on two scenarios that represent common video surveillance situations, parking lot surveillance and crowd monitoring. In the first scenario, a pan–tilt–zoom (PTZ) camera tracking system is developed for parking lot surveillance. Context is provided by the traffic sign recognition system to localize regular and handicapped parking spot signs as well as license plates. The PTZ algorithm has the ability to selectively detect and track persons based on scene context. In the second scenario, a group analysis algorithm is introduced to detect groups of people. Contextual information is provided by traffic sign recognition and region labeling algorithms and exploited for behavior understanding. In both scenarios, decision engines are used to interpret and classify the output of the subsystems and if necessary raise operator alerts. We show that using context information enables the automated analysis of complicated scenarios that were previously not possible using conventional moving object classification techniques.