NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – For months, the Norfolk Police Department has worked to fill more than 200 vacancies. Now, they may not have to thanks to a 24/7 surveillance hub that would use technology to keep eyes on the city while helping to fight crime.
Interim police chief Michael Goldsmith unveiled plans for a ‘real-time crime center’ during last Tuesday’s City Council work session.
“We really think this is a gamechanger for us to be able to put these devices out,” Goldsmith told council. “It allows police officers to see in real time to allow for a more efficient and effective response.”
The center includes a central hub staffed by officers and civilians, and it uses static cameras strategically placed in areas of high crime that give law enforcement a constant live feed of the area.
The police department is also planning to install license plate readers throughout the city to track stolen vehicles and other crimes.
“When we see something developing before it actually erupts into violence,” Goldsmith said, “we can get officers there and hopefully quell the disturbance before it turns into something more tragic.”
The initial start-up cost of $1.96 million would be funded by the state. The next hurdle for the city is to shift funding around to support a $661,500 annual operating fee.
“Public safety is a priority and if we need to increase our public safety budget by $661,000 annually to keep our city safe, it’s worth it,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander.
Councilman Tommy Smigiel talked about the possibility of moving funding that was to be used to help hire officers and use it instead to pay for the technology.
“Really, these become eyes of some of these positions that we can’t fill,” Smigiel said.
It’s a system changing the way law enforcement solves crime and is gaining popularity in Hampton Roads.
Hampton has had a real-time crime center for several years.
A Hampton Police Division spokesperson sent us the following:
“Our Real Time Information Center (RTIC) operates as a support function designed to assist in conducting intelligence and analysis research while providing real time support through the use of monitored camera systems. The RTIC provides officers and investigators with real time and recorded video footage thus improving the chances of apprehension, safe resolution and to aid in the successful prosecution of criminal conduct. The primary role of the RTIC, in addition to officer safety, is the overall betterment of the community and public safety.”
Newport News just hit the one year mark with its real-time crime center. Police Chief Steve Drew said it has helped in how it responds to crime and has seen “huge” clearance rates and successful prosecutions.
“The first thing we do is call up the real time crime center,” Drew said. “‘We have a shooting or a homicide at this location. Is there any footage?'”
Drew told 10 On Your Side that not only does it help Newport News Police in prosecutions, but also in how to prepare for a developing situation “when that calls comes in that we’re able to pull up camera footage and that officers can almost see that area before they get there and know what they’re running into or what they’re going to be addressing.”
“We have spent a lot of money on training our officers on technology,” Drew said. “I think it’s the future and I hope this department is one of the leaders in the area in trying to make our community safer.”
The city of Norfolk said it hopes to have a functional real-time crime center up and running by June 2023, and the Virginia Beach Police Department is also looking into adding one by fall 2023.