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Inside Birmingham Police Department’s $3 million Real Time Crime Center

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From left: Hunter Williams, chairman of the Birmingham City Council’s Public Safety Committee; Police Chief Patrick D. Smith and Mayor Randall Woodfin. (Cody Owens, Office of the Birmingham City Council)

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

The City of Birmingham on Tuesday opened its Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), where the police department can remotely view cameras and GPS coordinates from other BPD members in steps to promote public safety and reduce crime.

At a ribbon-cutting inside BPD’s headquarters at 1710 1st Avenue North, Chief Patrick D. Smith said the $3 million RTCC is a “culmination” of all the changes made to BPD’s operations since his arrival in 2018.

“[At the RTCC], you will see that our system is now able to work completely together, completely integrated and upgraded to today’s standards,” Smith said. “Right now, our officers in the RTCC have the ability to use body worn technology to remotely access where officers are, what they are doing and to get immediate information out to other officers who are responding.”

The same day as the ribbon-cutting, Smith said BPD officers used the RTCC to handle a homicide in the city.

“Within five minutes, the gentlemen sitting [in the RTCC] were able to resolve that matter. They were able to pull up video, identify the person involved and also give real time information out to our homicide detectives on the scene,” Smith said, adding, “This is how the real world new modern-day policing should work.”

The RTCC, which features live technology on the fourth floor of police headquarters, will operate 19 hours a day – hours chosen based on peak crime times with anywhere from five to eight officers staffing the center during each shift.

The grand opening drew a number of area leaders including Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Hunter Williams, chairman of the city council’s Public Safety Committee, Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona, and Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr.

Woodfin said the RTCC a “big tool” in the city’s “toolbox to address and solve crime.”

“The RTCC will provide immediate and actionable intelligence to our officers on high risk calls,” Woodfin said, “giving them the tools to increase, not only their safety, but the safety of the residents they were sworn to serve.”

Williams said the city knew a long time ago it was time to invest in the resources needed to reduce crime.

“In the long run we know that’s education and economic opportunity, and I think the mayor has exemplified that with the Birmingham Promise [scholarship program] but in the short run our citizens expect our law enforcement to be able to show up in a timely manner, to be able to solve a crime, and to be able to have the equipment to do so,” Williams said.