Birmingham Applies For Grants To Beef Up Surveillance, Readies To Open Real-Time Crime Center

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Birmingham Police Department Surveillance Sign

Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

The city of Birmingham will apply for state and federal grants to purchase new license plate readers and high-definition surveillance cameras, the city council decided Tuesday.

The city will apply for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, through the Alabama Law Enforcement Safety Division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, for $100,000 to purchase and maintain license plate readers “to improve the [Birmingham Police Department’s] response to violent crime.”

That decision comes just over a year after the council approved the installation of 10 license plate recognition cameras as part of a deal with Alabama Power. The city pays the utility a monthly rate of $2,291.67 to maintain the cameras. Those cameras had received pushback from activists concerned over “excessive” city funding for police, but Tuesday, the grant applications were approved without any discussion or controversy.

Another grant application approved Tuesday — also to DOJ through ADECA — requests $35,000 for the purchase, installation and maintenance of high-resolution surveillance cameras.

The council also approved a $394,231.50 increase in its contract with the Texas-based Tyler Technologies to add computer-aided dispatch maintenance services.

After multiple delays, the Birmingham Police Department is scheduled to launch its “real-time crime center” sometime this month. The $940,030 facility will serve as the BPD’s technological hub, consolidating technology such as ShotSpotter, PredPol, and Motorola’s CommandCentral Aware and BriefCam softwares.

These efforts are intended to combat the city’s rising rate of violent crime. Aside from a slight dip in 2018, the city’s homicide rate has increased steadily since 2014; 2020’s 124 homicides were the most the city had seen since 1994, and 2021 is roughly on track to match that number.

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