Council Approves Contract For Public Safety Surveillance System

An example of a portable surveillance system from another city

“The number one quality of life issue we hear about from our residents is gunfire, and violent crime. It’s a big issue. There is no hiding from it, and we, as city leadership, certainly can’t sit on our hands and do nothing about it,” Councilor Hunter Williams said following the approval of a contract for a pilot program for a citywide public safety surveillance system.

The Council went into an hour-long executive session to discuss the security details associated with the surveillance system, and eventually approved the item unanimously. According to Williams, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, the roughly 100 cameras for the pilot program are expected to be installed in the next 90 days.

The contract between the city and Alabama Power Company (APC), who will be providing and installing the monitoring equipment, is for 60 months. APC will be responsible for the maintenance and repair of the equipment provided. The contract totals $672,000 and will be payable through monthly installments.

All of the footage will be going to the Metro Area Crime Center (MACC) which was opened in 2016 as a central operations hub for multiple law enforcement agencies within Jefferson County. “We can use this footage in real time,” Williams said. Before, detectives in Birmingham would have to parse together various security camera footage from nearby stores or homes to see if they could get any leads. Williams said this contract will take law enforcement out of those silos.

“If we have an incident that occurs within the city of Birmingham, we will have the presence of several law enforcement agencies right there to collaborate and locate a suspect,” Williams said. “This puts us in the 21st Century. This is the first time we’ve had this kind of cooperation between law enforcement.”

The Birmingham Police Department will decide where to place the cameras based off crime data indicating areas where violent crime is most likely to occur. The camera equipment will be able to be moved according to current crime trends.

“What I like about this particular program is that it’s not being intrusive,” Councilor Lashunda Scales said, following the meeting. “It’s helping us, in addition to shot spotters, we can identify individuals who are committing crimes. Hopefully what we can do is help these neighborhoods where crime is prevalent, it can help them feel safe. A lot of people don’t right now. We have to combat that and I believe this is one tool that does just that.”

The entire contract is available through a Freedom of Information Act request to the Office of the City Attorney.