Operation Vulcan's Thunder

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Operation Vulcan's Thunder is a Birmingham Police Department initiative in which remote-controlled video surveillance cameras are placed in high-crime areas.

40 cameras were installed and monitored around the clock by a private company beginning in the spring of 2008. Surveillors are able to pan, zoom in and out. If they detect criminal activity in progress, police are notified immediately. The system can also record evidence of criminal activity to aid in investigations and prosecutions. The cameras are divided evenly between Birmingham's four police precincts. Specific locations were specified by the police department. These locations are not disclosed to the public in order to maximize the effectiveness of the disincentive to commit crime. Cameras can be moved to react to changes in criminal activity.

The project was funded by $1.4 million per year over five years, paid at a rate of $4.00 per hour per camera for 40 cameras. The funding came from a portion of the 1-cent sales tax passed by the Birmingham City Council toward the Birmingham Economic and Community Revitalization Ordinance proposed by then-Mayor of Birmingham Larry Langford. On January 16, 2008 the Public Safety Committee of the Birmingham City Council approved the lone bid for the program submitted by Ion Interactive Video Technologies. The Mayor's chief of operations, Chris Hartsell told the committee that six companies had applied to bid, but that only Ion was able to supply the specified technology. After brief debate and the redaction of a cancellation penalty, the Council approved Ion's contract on January 22.

Ion, which previously employed two off-duty sheriff's deputies as monitors for their private installations, hired 18 additional full-time staff for the system. According to Langford's Chief of Staff, Deborah Vance, the company agreed to a minimum of 50% minority participation in its personnel and subcontracting in order to secure the Council's approval.


  • Norris, Toraine (December 17, 2007) "Mayor Larry Langford promises web of cameras to keep watch on Birmingham crime." The Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (January 17, 2008) "Birmingham City Council committee OKs extra $1.4 million a year to enhance security." The Birmingham News
  • Whitmire, Kyle (January 22, 2008) "What’s next? RoboCop?" Birmingham Weekly Mixed Media blog.
  • Coman, Victoria L. (March 5, 2008) "Security cameras soon to be on outlook for crime." The Birmingham News

See also