Police inform councilors about information center project in real time | Local News

The Tulsa Police Department presented its plan for a real-time information center to city councilors last week, highlighting not only how the multimillion-dollar facility would help officers fight crime, but would more effectively and efficiently.

“What is that?” said Captain Jacob Johnston. “It’s really just a centralized location to manage the available technology.”

This technology includes cameras that the city already owns and operates to manage traffic operations, secure public parks and record police interactions with the public, as well as cameras owned by other public and private entities – which would be all monitored in real time from City Hall. .

Mayor GT Bynum’s fiscal year 2023 budget, which begins July 1, plans to spend $2.55 million to establish the Real-Time Information Center. City officials hope it will be operational by the end of June 2023.

The mayor’s office initially said that figure would cover the cost of building the facility, buying cameras and staffing with about 18 new employees.

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But Johnston told advisers on Wednesday that the $2.55 million will cover capital costs, with nearly $1.6 million more to be spent on staff and software in fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

Bynum and Police Chief Wendell Franklin said the facility would serve as a force multiplier, help officers respond more effectively to crimes in progress, and provide valuable information to investigators after the fact.

Johnston spent much of his time with city councilors talking about how technology would help the police department itself do its job better.

He noted, for example, that under the police department’s existing information-sharing system, officers do not always have access to reports of crimes that occurred in their patrol areas just hours before they begin to work.

“Officers could see what cameras are available around them and start looking for information,” Johnston said. “Additionally, RTIC analysts and operators would also be able to provide that.”

He used footage from information centers in other states to show how having video of an incident makes it easier for officers to solve crimes with less manpower, freeing up officers to do other work.

The first video showed a vehicle hitting another vehicle in the middle of the intersection. With the video in hand, Johnston said, police can start dealing with a scene like this before an officer even arrives.

“Now we see where the witnesses are and who is involved,” he said.

In the second video, a man parks in front of a store and enters. The incident is nothing out of the ordinary, which is key information for police, who had been called to the store when their alarm accidentally went off, indicating a robbery in progress.

By viewing the video in real time, Johnston said, police were able to respond with fewer officers than they would have had they based their response solely on the alarm.

“By deploying this kind of technology, you’ll actually see less police enforcement because with precision you’re able to identify who’s involved,” he said. “So the old days of this netting concept of, here’s an area, you can stop anybody moving and doing anything, those days can go away and now it’s, it’s the guy, it’s the suspect is who we stop and we know why, we have proof why.

Another technology police hope to use in the real-time information center is Auto Vehicle Locate, or AVL – a device that would be used to track police vehicles.

Franklin told advisers the technology is similar to GPS and has been used effectively in places like Chicago. He said he can also see him helping Tulsa police more effectively patrol high-crime areas like 61st Street and Peoria Avenue.

“We’ve known this to be a hot spot for some time,” Franklin said. “The question is, how often are we out there in patrol cars? Do we only go there when something bad happens, or do officers go to these areas regularly?

“AVL allows us to see this and we can also, potentially, require agents to spend X times in a specified area that we know is a hotspot.”

Franklin previously said TPD hopes to initially deploy about 25 to 50 video cameras, but he reminded advisers on Wednesday that this number is fluid and the exact number will depend on a number of factors, including the types of cameras purchased.

Johnston, meanwhile, said the police department would eventually like to have cameras at every major intersection in the city — about 55 locations — in addition to those placed in neighborhoods with high rates of violent crime and at special events. . The city has no plans to use drones or facial recognition technology in its real-time information center, Johnston told Tulsa World on Friday.

“It’s not the technology we’re moving forward with, but that doesn’t mean that as this technology improves, we won’t revisit it in the future,” he said. . “I wouldn’t want anyone to think we’ve eliminated an option to allow us to do our job better if it becomes available.”

The video cameras to be purchased as part of the Real-Time Information Center are separate from the Flock System license plate readers the city is installing in high-crime neighborhoods. License plate readers take still images which are used to identify stolen vehicles and assist with Amber and Silver alerts.

Neither video cameras nor license plate readers will be used to enforce traffic violations, according to police.

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kevin.canfield@tulsaworld.com