More camera surveillance and license plate readers part of Richmond's new real-time crime center

Posted at 6:12 PM, Sep 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-26 18:12:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond Police Chief Rick Edward offered an update on the department's new real-time crime center to Richmond City Council on Tuesday.

The center combines a handful of technologies to help police respond to a crime or an event in real-time.

Edwards said the Richmond Police Capital City Intelligence Center is almost fully built out and, while not fully operational, is already being put to use.

He said a $750,000 state grant funded the project which includes crime-fighting tools like expanded camera surveillance, license plate readers, and other identifying technology to help analysts quickly get information back to detectives on the street

With increased surveillance comes the possibility of increased violations of civil liberties.

Edwards addressed those concerns by saying it was important that police were transparent with the technology they use.

"One of the things that most people are concerned about is facial recognition technology. We've avoided that. We've talked about it internally. There are a lot of videos in China showing people getting tickets for jaywalking based on facial recognition. We're not interested in that and generally, the technology we will be using will be retroactive," he said. "So, after an event occurs, that's when we will try to find how that incident occurred."

He said the people who work in the center will be audited to help make sure they're not abusing the technology.

"It's the same audits we have in place already," he said. "If an officer runs a person's social security number there's an audit in place for that."

He also suggested the data generated by the crime center could help both sides in the courtroom.

"I'm a former homicide detective and I've had to convince a lot of folks to come to court and point out killers," Edwards said. "I'd love to do less of that, and have more technicians come to court as a custodian of record and say, 'This is the video, this is the technology that caught this crime on camera.' And let that speak for itself instead of bringing one of our community members in to have to testify.

"It's fair even for the defendant. Witnesses can forget things, witnesses can lie, but technology is what it is. It can be evaluated by both sides, the prosecutor and the defense."

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