The Mobile Police Department recently upgraded to an intelligence gathering system that gives officers access to 2,000 cameras citywide.
The system, called Shield, operates through a public-private partnership in which the MPD gains access to pre-existing camera systems located in public places, such as schools and retail centers, Chief James Barber said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Currently, the system has access to 2,000 cameras, including systems owned by the Mobile County Public School System and Bel Air Mall.
The department also has access, through the system, to its own cameras installed in the downtown area, as well as cameras owned by the Alabama Department of Transportation, among others, Barber said. The department must get permission from the owners to access the cameras, but once initial permission is given, the cameras can be accessed at any time until the owner says otherwise, he said.
During the announcement, camera systems at Davidson High School and Bel Air Mall were visible on monitors that ran the length of two walls in the department’s joint operations room on the second floor of headquarters.
The department also has the ability to review video recorded by the individual camera systems, but only if that particular camera can record, Barber said. He added that the department won’t and doesn’t have the manpower to monitor the cameras continuously, but would use the technology “as needed.”
The technology would be beneficial, especially during active crime situations, large public events and natural disasters, Barber said.
Neighborhoods can also give permission to allow the department access to cameras on the streets, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said.
Although the city and department are not paying to install camera systems, as part of Shield, Stimpson and Barber did not rule out the possibility of adding cameras in the future.
Barber said the new equipment came out of the department’s capital budget and cost $280,000.