Little Rock Police gain approval, funding for 'Real Time Crime Center'
Members of the Little Rock City Board of Directors approved a "Real Time Crime Center" for the city's police department during a Tuesday board meeting. The board also approved initial funding of $200,000 for the project.
“This will be a game changer for the men and women of the Little Rock Police Department as well as the public as we work to continue to see our trend in violent crime going down,” Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said.
The LRPD crime center is being modeled after the state’s first Real Time Crime Center, established last year in Jonesboro. A U.S. Department of Justice paper outlines a variety of possible features of Real Time Crime Centers. The most fundamental feature is the ability for law enforcement to monitor the live video feeds of cameras—sometimes hundreds of cameras, as is the case in Jonesboro—and use video management software to analyze the data from those cameras.
The estimated cost to complete the LRPD crime center is expected to be $1.5 million. Scott said he anticipates most of the funding will come from grants.
Speaking to city directors about the project, LRPD Assistant Chief Health Helton said the center will benefit other city departments too.
“If we had any kind of flooding, fires, any man-made, or natural disasters, we can utilize our technology to better serve our first responders that are going to those scenes,” Helton said.
Officer Rachel Anderson oversees Jonesboro’s Real Time Crime Center. She said, “We use it daily to find fault in accidents. So, whenever a wreck happens at an intersection, I can go look at the camera from that intersection, back it up 30 seconds or a minute, and see who was at fault, who ran a red light, or failed to yield.” Anderson said this saves time for officers on the scene and for members of the court if an accident goes to litigation.
Video management software also makes it possible for law enforcement to scan for patterns or common images in videos from many different cameras. This is most commonly used for license plate identification. Some versions of the software also allow for facial recognition, which raises privacy concerns among some groups.
The Department of Justice recommends any police department interested in using facial recognition technology work with a local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to develop policies for preventing abuse of such technology.
According to Sgt. Courtney Bewley, one of the officers who will oversee the LRPD crime center, the department has no plans to use facial recognition technology in this phase of development. Bewley said the initial funding from the city will be used for monitors and to upgrade computers.
“Being able to use technology to assist them, both the patrolmen going to their calls and the detectives responding to significant events, I’m excited to see how it’s going to help and make their jobs easier and make their jobs a little safer,” Bewley said.
Funding for the LRPD crime center will come from a “seized funds” account. Money from the seized funds account is earmarked directly for LRPD projects, and does not come from taxes, according to Mayor Scott, who said the new center could begin operations in July.