KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Knoxville Police is building a Real-Time Intelligence Center. The center will place cameras around the city which can be viewed in real-time and used as an investigative tool after a crime has been committed.
KPD used the Chattanooga Police Department’s Real-Time Intelligence Center as a model as they planned. Knoxville’s center is expected to be operational by the summer of 2024. CPD has used its center since 2017, WATE spoke with two Chattanooga officers about how they use the center.
“Our overall goal in the real-time Intelligence Center is to reduce violence,” said Sergeant William Atwell.
The officers described how the cameras are used on a day-to-day basis to help officers as they respond to changing situations.
“So for instance, shooting comes out, our investigators hear that on the radio or see it on our dispatch software. And we immediately start pulling up cameras that we have access to in the area of the shooting. As officers are arriving on the scene or en route to the scene, we’re relaying any information we can see via the camera in real-time, whether that’s a vehicle direction of travel of the vehicle, suspect information, clothing, race height, weight, male, female, any information we can get to them,” explained Atwell.
The department currently has 78 cameras that are used for the center and they have access to around 3000 cameras around Chattanooga. The additional cameras come from other city cameras, housing authority cameras and partnering businesses.
“We do have a program out there. They have to sign up for it and, there are some requirements that go with it,” said Lt. Tim Tomisek, Intelligence Division Commander. “So think about if you’re a business owner and your burglar alarm goes off, well, you can call us and we we can check their cameras and see if there’s anything wrong before an officer even goes out there.”
When the program first began, Atwell and Tomisek explained that the department faced some backlash from the community with some people feeling like they were spying on them.
“We worked with the Mayor’s Office of Outreach and Engagement and Multicultural Affairs to start bringing in community members and inviting them to tour the real-time center, explaining how we’re deploying our resources, how we use our resources and how long we store the video and all of those type of things explaining just what a great asset it is to have,” said Atwell.
KPD shared that they also planned to offer tours once the center is complete.
“Hopefully, Knoxville can see some success that we’ve had in their own city,” said Atwell. “Bringing people in and explaining the processes, explaining how their resources are being deployed and sharing that information with the community is fundamental and part of that success.”
He added that the cameras are placed “in areas where you would have zero expectation of privacy.”
“All of our cameras are in a very large white box. It has a city badge on it. On the front, it has a flashing blue led light that flashes 24/7. And every time we deploy new cameras, we let the media know the location of the cameras, we want the public to know that the cameras are there right there, not these covert hidden boxes that people aren’t aware of,” said Atwell. “You know, we’re not zooming into your windows and watching you watch television.”
The placement of the cameras can also change. Atwell explained that every year they conduct a study based on a three-year violent history across the city and a one-year of current camera locations based on violence to see if they should move any of the existing cameras.
“We live in a technology world. You can’t walk into a business anymore that doesn’t have cameras or see someone on the street that doesn’t have a cellphone with a camera on it. They’re everywhere. If we don’t have cameras up, we’re not, we’re not keeping up with technology. Quite frankly, we’re not doing good police work,” said Tomisek.
KPD plans to start with 15 cameras placed around the city. CPD shared that their department also started with 15 cameras and in the years since the program has only grown.
“The real-time center started out, you know, kind of small kind of basic with 15 cameras and, doing a good job, then. It’s doing a great job now and next year it’ll be even better and on down the road. It just continues to get better and better,” said Tomisek.
To find updates as Knoxville’s Real-Time Intelligent Center is built, click here.