Detroit Police Chief Wants $4 Million for Video Monitoring Centers

July 16, 2019, 8:36 AM

Detroit's police force wants more space to monitor and process surveillance camera videos.

(Photo: DepositPhotos)

Sarah Cwiek of Michigan Radio has details:

The police department is asking the Detroit City Council to approve a $4-million contract to expand its existing real-time crime center at police headquarters. It would also add two mini-centers at the eighth and ninth precincts.

Right now, the real-time crime center processes streaming video from more than 500 Project Green Light cameras located throughout the city. Now, the city plans to add another 400 cameras mounted on traffic lights by 2020, and Police Chief James Craig says they need more space and processing power.

The 8th Precinct is at 21555 W. McNichols Rd. near Lahser Road in northwest Detroit. The 9th Precinct is at 11187 Gratiot Ave. between the Ravendale and LaSalle College Park east-side neighborhoods.

"We're literally addressing the entire city" from headquarters, the chief told a council committee Monday, the public radio journalist posts. "This will be more intimate, more neighborhood-based, and that's why this is so important."

(Graphic: DepositPhotos)

"Intimate" isn't a typical description of video surveillance, a hot-button topic because the city also uses facial recognition software to identify possible crime suspects in archived footage from cameras at gas stations, restaurants, stores, schools and traffic lights.

Craig took pains to point out that the facial recognition technology—currently the subject of an ongoing debate and awaiting formal approval from the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners—is a stand-alone technology.

While the real-time centers are equipped with it, it won't be applied to streaming footage, but only to footage where police have already identified a crime being committed, Craig told council members. He added that a facial recognition ID can only be used as an investigative tool, and never as the sole basis for an arrest.

As for the traffic light cameras, Craig says the plan is to mount them along high-crime thoroughfares, a half-mile apart.

The full council is expected to vote on the $4-million proposed expansion next Tuesday.

"Several members, including Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield, have expressed reservations," Cwiek writes. "Sheffield has authored a proposed technology surveillance ordinance" caslling for public engagement, specifics on how and why a technology would be used, and yearly reports on collected data.

Read more:  Michigan Radio

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