Keeping a watchful eye on crime

single-meta-cal October 11, 2018

New crime-fighting technology is changing the way Huntsville police protect and serve the community.

The Huntsville Police Department recently installed police cameras and noise detectors for testing purposes in neighborhoods where residents have requested surveillance. The technology will assist in criminal intelligence sharing and the capture of violent offenders in Huntsville and the state of Alabama.

Deputy Chief Corey Harris said the new technology is part of a larger effort to establish the North Alabama Multi-Agency Crime Center (NAMACC), a comprehensive pilot program in Huntsville.

“It will build a network throughout the state with local, county, state, and federal agencies,” Harris said. “It will also assist in dropping crime in most cases by up to 10-20 percent as reported by other federal agencies with similar centers.”

As NAMACC evolves, the Huntsville Police Department is leveraging existing space at the agency’s main campus on Wheeler Avenue. Officials hope to launch the public safety program in a standalone facility in Huntsville as the program becomes more successful.
Harris said he and other city leaders traveled throughout the state and to major cities across the U.S. to see similar crime-fighting tools in action before devising a plan for Huntsville.

“It assisted in giving us a general idea on what direction to plan our center and cater to the Huntsville metropolitan area’s crime-solving needs as a whole,” he said.

Police cameras also offer an extra layer of security and help to significantly reduce crime in cities around the U.S. One camera has been placed near Sonya Drive, the site of the new Neighborhood Resource Center where the city is piloting a program to provide enhanced community policing and municipal support.

District 1 Councilman Devyn Keith said the installation of police cameras and noise detectors will help put Huntsville on the map as a smart, safe place to live, work, and visit.

“The cameras were a product of when I was first campaigning and finding out what resources the police felt they needed to increase their effectiveness in the streets, but also what the community felt would help them feel safer in their neighborhoods,” he said.

In addition to cameras and noise detectors, cities are using facial recognition software, license plate readers, and other tools to make their communities safer. Harris hopes to deploy similar technologies in Huntsville soon.

Keith, who was elected to the city council in 2016, said efforts to beef up security and prevent and reduce crime were a “joint ask” by Huntsville residents and the police department.

“They’re not put there solely to monitor anything but to deter crimes,” he said.

NAMACC is still a work in progress that involves both software and hardware purchases, personnel assignments, training, and agreements with local, county, and federal law enforcement agencies. Harris said completion of the NAMACC could take anywhere from six months to two years.

“In this case, the squeaky wheel gets the oil,” he said. “When we have reports in areas of various activity, we want to prevent it and make it a safe environment for all.”