Birmingham Police Real Time Crime Center

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View of the Birmingham Police Real Time Crime Center

The Birmingham Police Real Time Crime Center is a surveillance and intelligence center operated by the Administrative Division of the Birmingham Police Department from room 310 of Birmingham Police Headquarters. The center expands on the capabilities of the Metro Area Crime Center operated by the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office by supporting officers on the scene in real time, and is modeled after similar facilities used by police departments in Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Memphis, Tennessee; and New York City.

The Real Time Crime Center is anchored by a suite of "CommandCentral Aware" law enforcement software tools licensed from Motorola Solutions Inc. at a cost of $1,315,659 to be paid over five years. That expenditure was approved by the Birmingham City Council on October 20, 2020. The facility was dedicated a year later, on October 19, 2021.

Motorola's software suite includes "BriefCam" for analysis of public and private surveillance footage. Real-time sources include high-resolution video from a network of cameras installed in partnership with Alabama Power, from additional police camera installations to be determined, and from privately-operated security cameras linked to the system. Notably, the center can also process live video from police cruiser dash cameras and officers' body cameras, which can be turned on remotely from the center based on real-time geo-fencing. Expanding the number of cameras is considered a key to making full use of the technology.

The software can also analyze footage from devices recovered as evidence, or from videos posted or streamed online. According to officials, the city's software contract specifically excludes facial recognition tools, which are offered by Motorola Solutions under the "Vigilant FaceAlert" name.

Other technologies in place at the Real Time Crime Center include "Vigilant PlateSearch" for analysis from fixed and mobile automated license plate readers, ShotSpotter gunfire detectors, and "PredPol", an algorithm-based "predictive policing" application that analyzes property crime locations to detect patterns.

Construction of the center itself was carried out by Monumental Contracting Service for $940,030, an amount approved by the City Council on January 26, 2021. The project was expected to be completed in May, but pandemic-related issues caused the opening to be delayed to October. That month the Birmingham City Council approved contracts for matching funds and service contracts to increase the number of license plate readers and high-resolution surveillance cameras, and to upgrade computer-aided dispatch technology.

In an announcement marking the first anniversary of the Real Time Crime Center, Chief Scott Thurmond shared that technology upgrades would allow more home and business surveillance cameras to be connected to the system continuously, and for the public to share video footage directly with police using Axon Citizen on the Axon Capture platform. The department also procured panoramic patrol cruiser cameras from Fleet 3 by Axon.

References

  • Prickett, Sam (March 22, 2019) "The Big Picture: Woodfin’s Team Updates Residents About Progress on Public Safety, Economic Opportunities and Other Initiatives." BirminghamWatch
  • Robinson, Carol (May 28, 2020) "Birmingham police will fight crime with all-seeing live technology." The Birmingham News
  • Garrison, Greg (October 13, 2020) "Mayor says facial recognition software not part of Birmingham police plan." The Birmingham News
  • Garrison, Greg (October 20, 2020) "Birmingham buys police software: opponents warn against facial recognition." The Birmingham News
  • Prickett, Sam (January 26, 2021) "City Council Approves Bid for Birmingham Real-Time Crime Center." BirminghamWatch
  • Garrison, Greg (January 28, 2021) "Construction set to begin on Birmingham’s Real Time Crime Center." The Birmingham News
  • Franklin, Art (August 5, 2021) "CBS 42 gets early, exclusive look at Birmingham Police’s Real Time Crime Center." CBS42.com
  • Prickett, Sam (September 14, 2021) "Birmingham Applies for Grants to Beef Up Surveillance, Readies to Open Real-Time Crime Center." BirminghamWatch
  • Robinson, Carol (October 19, 2021) "With new $3 million Real Time Crime Center, Birmingham police ‘can show who is behind the gun’." The Birmingham News
  • Robinson, Carol (October 24, 2022) "New technology coming to Birmingham’s Real Time Crime Center: ‘We have to be one step ahead’ of criminals, chief says." The Birmingham News