An old building transformed for new purposes is hardly earth-shaking news in Huntsville these days.
However, few repurposes from past to present may be as essential to Huntsville’s future as this one.
The Huntsville Police Department this week cut the ribbon – actually, appropriately, a strip of crime-scene tape – to unveil its new Criminal Investigations Division (CID) headquarters on Holmes Ave. at the site of the former Seldon Center, most recently the property of Huntsville City Schools.
What will take place there, says HPD Chief Mark McMurray, “means we’re finally up to 2017 standards.”
As Mayor Tommy Battle notes, “It’s the law enforcement approach for the 21st century.”
This move enables HPD to consolidate and communicate. All its major crime units, save the drug task force and domestic violence, will be under the same roof in the CID building. Some 55 officers will be working out of the building, working under the supervision of Captain Mike Izzo.
The software we’ll use is so good, it predicts crime at an 87 percent rate”
This will assure better communications among the different branches within HPD as “all crimes are funneled through one commander (Izzo) and he’s able to take those crimes and break them down,” McMurray says.
It takes a high-tech approach that’s multifaceted. HPD will fight crime with computers – and fight crime committed on computers.
“The number one growing crime in the country is identity theft and cyber crime,” McMurray says.
A number of the most dangerous criminals are best described as “predators” who use the internet for their purposes.
One officer has been delegated to serve with the FBI on the Tennessee Valley Cyber Crimes unit that encompasses several law enforcement operations. That relationship enables HPD to be at the forefront of fighting major cyber crimes or to using FBI resources to examining phone and email records once a suspect is apprehended.
The CID can become a nexus for communication with the FBI, Alabama Bureau of Investigation and other groups.
Most importantly, it’s a nexus for internal communication.
“We can’t have a true analytical crime center until we get real-time crime data and we’re on the brink of that,” McMurray says.
Upon full completion and implementation, there will be analysts working out of CID who will study data and help supervisors best assign personnel.
“The software we’ll use is so good, it predicts crime at an 87 percent rate,” McMurray says. “It can tell you where the next wave of crime is going to occur. It looks at the city and shows visually where the crimes are occurring, and based on where it’s happened in the past, it shows where you’re going to get hit next. We can get ahead of a crime wave.”
That’s the oldest task in the book for a police department, and an old building gives Huntsville Police a new way of accomplishing it.