By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday approved a camera surveillance program designed to reduce shootings across the city.
The resolution on the agenda stated the surveillance system would focus on the Central Park, Ensley, Gate City, and Kingston neighborhoods. Councilor Hunter Williams, chair of the public safety committee, said the council removed the names of the neighborhoods before voting on the resolution.
“There is no one neighborhood that we would like to label as violent crime. That is why we made it very abstract,” said Williams.
Roughly 100 cameras would be used in the five-year program which will cost the city $672,000 per year. The cameras will be coordinated with the police department’s ShotSpotter program.
The cameras are expected to be installed within 90 days.
“The number one quality of life issue that we face in the city of Birmingham . . . is gunfire and violent crimes,” Williams said. “We have an obligation to equip our police officers with whatever they need.”
Approximately 100 cameras will be installed and the location determined based on crime trends.
Video would be monitored by Birmingham’s Metro Area Crime Center. The facility at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is made up of more than a dozen local law enforcement agencies. Surveillance video is monitored 24/7 at the facility.
Williams said, “If we have an incident that occurs in Birmingham we will have several different agencies where there can be collaboration in finding that suspect.”
While some argue that more money should be spent on hiring officers Williams said the budget for law enforcement is approximately $90 million and $672,000 for the program is a good use of taxpayer dollars. “This is a pilot program … if it is not successful we will not continue to put money into it,” he said.
The “brutal reality” is that the city of Birmingham has a gun violence issue that needs to be addressed, he said.
“No neighborhood is exempt from violent crime,” Williams said. “You have gunfire in every single neighborhood, you have robberies in every single neighborhood, you have drive-bys in every single section of the city. There is no one neighborhood that we want to label as violent crime.”
ABC 33/40 contributed to this report