December 7, 2022

The Birmingham Police Department recently marked the one-year anniversary of its Real Time Crime Center, and Chief Scott Thurmond said not only has the center already helped to solve numerous crimes, but more technology is on the way.

“As we progress, we have to utilize technology to solve crimes,’’ Thurmond said Monday. “The criminals use it, so we have to be one step ahead. We’ve been successful in just the first year.”

The $3 million center was unveiled Oct. 19, 2021, and features all-seeing live technology nestled in a hub on the fourth floor of police headquarters.

The center uses real-time technology as well as data-driven intelligence to increase prevention, apprehension and resolution of crime.

The state-of-the art facility was modeled after best practices of those elsewhere, such as Chicago, Detroit and New York City – all centers visited by Birmingham officials.

When the center opened, police officials touted the technology, which included automated license plate readers – high-speed, computer-controlled camera systems that are typically mounted on utility poles, streetlights, highway overpasses, mobile trailers, or attached to squad cars. ALPRs capture all license plate numbers that come into view, along with the location, date, and time.

The data, which includes photographs of the vehicle and sometimes its driver and passengers, is then uploaded to a central server.

The readers help in every level of crime from stolen vehicles to tracking violent suspects.

Another feature at the time the center opened was new body worn camera technology that allows officers working the crime center to remotely turn on and off body worn cameras.

Birmingham Police Department Real Time Crime Center

Birmingham police Chief Scott Thurmond said the department’s Real Time Crime Center is helping to solve crimes, and more technology is on the way. (Carol Robinson)

The investment was a wise one, Thurmond said.

Det. Ronald Davenport on Monday talked about a 2021 Gate City homicide in which the center’s video captured a man unleashing a hail of gunfire in Gate City, bullets that killed 24-year-old Roderick Tavares Chester Jr. A young child was also injured by glass and shrapnel.

Within minutes, Davenport said, the center was able to provide detectives with possibly witnesses, including a vehicle that was driving by when the suspect was firing the AR-15. The center also had the shooting on camera, images that were later distributed to the public.

All of that together ultimately led to a capital murder charge against the suspect.

Davenport said detectives likely would have identified the suspect without the center but said it would have taken much longer.

“The quicker we can get that person off the street, and remove that firearm from the public,’’ Thurmond said, “it’s a win for us and a win for the community.”

Det. Ben Jackson said the center also has provided valuable assistance in solving property crimes.

Just recently, Jackson said, the city experienced a rash of burglaries at businesses all over the city.

“Most of these businesses had video,’’ Jackson said.

Those videos were submitted to the center, which was able to provide investigators with information needed to obtain more than a dozen warrants on felony crimes.

“We’ve been able to solve crimes and bring justice,’’ Thurmond said.

As the center continues to grow, Thurmond said he’s excited about new technology about to be added.

In the near future, the chief said, the public will be able to register their home and/or business surveillance cameras to the Real Time Crime Center’s system. New software will allow those cameras to feed into the center.

Birmingham Real Time Crime Center

Police and city officials on Tuesday unveiled the department’s $3 million Real Time Crime Center, which features all-seeing live technology nestled in a hub on the fourth floor of police headquarters.

“We’re not going to sit there and monitor their home, but if a crime occurs on their street, we’ll definitely have the Real Time Crime Center to review that and see if it gives us leads to help solve crimes,’’ Thurmond said.

Another new feature will be the Fleet 3 by Axon. Cameras installed in the police cruisers will provide panoramic footage instead of what they do now – which is record in the direction the camera is facing.

“This will provide additional footage that we can utilize,’’ Thurmond said.

Another coming feature is Axon Capture, a software program that will allow the public to send police video and photos related to criminal investigation.

“As we continue to build this out, we’re finding out which technology works best,’’ Thurmond said.

“We want to be the fix-all for the community,’’ he said. “We want to solve and prevent crimes, and the Real Time Crime Center is the key. They have the technology to connect the dots.”

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