Thursday, December 1, 2022

Wilmington police chief proposes ‘real-time’ crime center

A Real Time Crime Center located in New York City. Photo courtesy of the New York City Police Foundation.
A Real Time Crime Center located in New York City. Photo courtesy of the New York City Police Foundation.

The Wilmington Police Department is hoping to create a new crime center that would provide real-time information to officers out in the field to help them respond more effectively to citizens’ calls.

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous asked city council at Monday’s agenda briefing to consider budgeting for several employees who’d monitor the proposed “real-time” crime center.

“Real-time crime centers are popping up all over the country, within police agencies, public safety agencies, as a way to…get information to our field personnel as they’re arriving, or before they arrive, at the scene of an incident,” Evangelous said.

A real-time crime center, or STING (Situational, Tactics and Intelligence Nexus Group) center, is a centralized group of specifically skilled personnel – both sworn and non-sworn – who directly support field operations with real-time analytics through vast quantities of accessible data, and video-based resources and systems, Evangelous said.

The employees man a center that looks like a mission control setup, complete with video feed from public cameras and business security cameras.

Crime centers like these are already being operated at law enforcement agencies across the country, including major cities in North Carolina like Charlotte, Raleigh and Fayetteville, Evangelous said.

The police chief’s proposal includes $196,830 in funds needed to get the STING center built and operational at an existing location within police headquarters. Evangelous said he has identified some asset forfeiture money that could be used to get the department operational within the next two or three months.

Four sworn employees would be needed to run the crime center, paid for with $144,492 in funds already allocated to existing officers. But something that requires additional funding in next fiscal year’s budget is about $147,595 to employ three full-time analysts and two part-time analysts, Evangelous said. The employees would be a new annual cost if council approves the crime center and the chief’s recommended budget.

Staffing a crime center requires at least two sworn members at the center 12 hours a day, seven days a week, along with analysts, Evangelous said.

“Presently we don’t have anyone monitoring any cameras…and in a real-time crime center, there’s an entire wall of videos coming in, both public videos and private videos,” Evangelous said.

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous (file photo)
Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous (file photo)

As the police department moves forward with its proposal for the STING center, the chief hopes to stream in footage from the city’s more than 300 cameras including, traffic, downtown and boardwalk cameras. The police department also plans to gain access to private cameras, including those in banks, convenience stores and apartment complexes, through signed agreements.

The cameras would be combined to feed into a “massive video wall” housed in the STING center, Evangelous said. Employees would be able to take in calls and pull up live video feed for public and private use.

Along with public and private camera surveillance, the center could also pull in data from various resources, including the 911 center, ShotSpotter and social media sites, along with databases from intelligence and terrorism task force efforts at levels from local to federal.

“These are all possible scenarios that could have real positive outcomes in the future,” Evanglous said. “Real-time…it’s proactive and not reactive. Most of what we do a lot of times is after the fact, is when we get a call. Now, we will still get a call, but we’ll now be working on the front end, pushing information out prior to us getting to the scene.”

The information provided by the STING center would enhance the officer’s situational awareness and improve decision making, Evangelous said.

“I really believe, and multiple agencies believe, that this is the way to go. The whole video piece to this…we will have the capacity to be enable to see videos as things are occurring,” Evangelous said.

The real-time crime center  would be used for a “certain hierarchy” of 911 calls, including shots fired, armed robbery calls and burglaries in progress, he said. The calls would be funneled in from the 911 call center and manned by the STING center.

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