City Council approves surveillance camera for Birmingham’s high-crime areas

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Over the next 90 days, Birmingham, Ala. will install over 100 surveillance cameras in its high-crime areas in hopes of curbing crime and violence in the city.

The plans follow legislation unanimously passed Tuesday by the Birmingham City Council that allows Mayor Randall Woodfin to enter a contract with Alabama Power Company (APC) for a surveillance camera pilot program.

The contract between the city and APC, who will be providing and installing the monitoring equipment, is for five  years. APC will be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the equipment provided. The contract totals $672,000 and will be payable through monthly installments of $56,000.

“The number one quality of life issue we hear about from our residents is gunfire, and violent crime. It’s a big issue. There is no hiding from it, and we, as city leadership, certainly can’t sit on our hands and do nothing about it,” Councilor Hunter Williams said following the approval of a contract for a pilot program for a citywide public safety surveillance system.

All of the footage will be going to the Metro Area Crime Center (MACC) which was opened in 2016 as a central operations hub for multiple law enforcement agencies within Jefferson County. “We can use this footage in real time,” Williams said. Before, detectives in Birmingham would have to parse together various security camera footage from nearby stores or homes to see if they could get any leads. Williams said this contract will take law enforcement out of those silos.

The Birmingham Police Department will decide where to place the cameras based off crime data indicating areas where violent crime is most likely to occur. The camera equipment will be able to be moved according to current crime trends.

“What I like about this particular program is that it’s not being intrusive,” Councilor Lashunda Scales said, following the meeting. “It’s helping us, in addition to shot spotters, we can identify individuals who are committing crimes. Hopefully what we can do is help these neighborhoods where crime is prevalent, it can help them feel safe. A lot of people don’t right now. We have to combat that and I believe this is one tool that does just that.”

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