Hosting a walkthrough of the Chattanooga Police Department’s new Real Time Intelligence Center (RTIC), Mayor Andy Berke vowed, "Our city will stop at nothing to prevent crime."
RTIC will gather data from cameras placed throughout the city starting this week. Police officials said they will use the cameras to create a "near real-time digital data warehouse."
The police are installing the cameras in about a dozen locations, including Glass Street, Brainerd Road, and North Chamberlain Street. They say their existing Crime Analysis Team is mapping the entire city's crime data to identify trends and hot spots.
Police Chief Fred Fletcher said the RTIC's purpose is to “give officers and investigators real-time information to help identify patterns, stop emerging crime trends, and aid in directing resources to be more effective at discovering, preventing, and responding to crime”.
However, local advocacy group Concerned Citizens for Justice is critical of the center, calling it mass surveillance.
"I'm pretty sure you wouldn't do this to people living on Lookout Mountain or Signal Mountain," said Concerned Citizen for Justice member Darryon Wood. "It seems like most of these cameras are all in black neighborhoods. You're putting cameras into black communities as if we are the only community in Chattanooga that creates crime."
So far, the city has spent $113,000 to get the center up and running. In February, the City Council unanimously approved an additional $750,000+ for future cameras and technology, such as face matching software similar to what the military uses to locate terrorists.
Automatic license plate readers that can capture information from cars will also be used. Chattanooga Police say they plan to store the information for up to a year.
Chief Fletcher addressed concerns that the center brings up privacy concerns.
"I've worked with community and advocacy groups to make sure that our policy reflects those issues," Fletcher said. "We will make sure that we balance the community’s demand that we do everything we can to keep them safe with everybody’s interest to not have unreasonable intrusions to their privacy."
Jared Story is another Concerned Citizens for Justice member, and he said he understands people wanting to feel safe. But he thinks the surveillance system is just a “band aid solution” for crime.
"It might move crime around the city," Story said, "but ultimately is not going to solve the root causes of crime, which are economic and racial inequality. And those issues are not being addressed."
Police Chief Fred Fletcher predicts residents will welcome the cameras. Instead of wanting to move the cameras out of their neighborhoods, he expects they will want to add more.
"A small critical mass of like 15, like we are employed now, will quickly grow to 30 or 40, when every community would like one to help keep their neighborhood, their street, and their porches safe," Fletcher said.