ST. LOUIS (KSDK) – Next time you head to a big event downtown, the St. Louis Police Department may be monitoring the crowds through a new Real Time Crime Center.
The crime center involves a network of cameras. Some of them are marked with red and blue blinking lights, in order to let you know they're there. Because, the city says it wants to be transparent about the new system, which it hopes will allow police to prevent and solve crimes.
"It will be 24 hours a day. We'll have analysts here, triaging calls, listening to the police radio, listening to 911 calls, and being able to direct resources ultimately to catch the bad guys, ultimately keep our community safer," said St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson.
The city currently has access to around 400 cameras, which will be accessible 24 hours a day by the Real Time Crime Center. The center is modeled after what many other major cities have created. Those cities include Chicago, New York City, Memphis, and Kansas City. Police officers will staff the center, and can immediately send images or video to police responding to a call. The department will also concentrate cameras where it needs surveillance, which may include big events. For instance, at the Go! St. Louis marathon, police were able to monitor for suspicious packages.
The city is also still working to partner with private companies that have surveillance systems in order to increase the number of cameras in the network. So, the ACLU says it wants to make sure those companies are under the same restrictions as government when it comes to watching the public.
"Technology in and of itself could be a tool for good, or it can be misused. Our concern is that there are several protections that are not yet in place that will insure the public that surveillance is being done in the constitutionally permissible manner," said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director for ACLU of Missouri.
"Cameras are everywhere now. People have them on their phones, people are making videos of just about everything. If we're going to address crime, we need to be out there as quickly as possible. We need to get officers as much information as possible so they can do their jobs better," said Mayor Francis Slay, (D) St. Louis.
The city also says it has policies in place about how it can use the information collected on cameras. The ACLU says it will meet with the city about those policies and give its input on whether they provide proper protection.