CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police have announced their latest high-tech “nerve center,” the latest expansion of the department’s efforts to use technology to reduce crime.
The Central District is the latest to get one of the department’s so-called “strategic decision support centers,” (SDSCs) which are now in place in 21 of the city’s 22 police districts. The newest SDSC at the Central District, which includes parts of downtown and the South Loop, has been operating for about a month, according to Police Supt. David Brown.
The department has said SDSCs already have proven successful at helping police prevent crime by using data analysis, gunshot sensors, live surveillance camera feeds, license plate recognition software, and trained crime analysts to predict when crime might happen. The screens inside each center also allow officers to see the locations of police units and incoming calls for service; screens are updated every 30 seconds, and the rooms are staffed 24 hours a day.
Brown said the SDSC at the Central District police station will give officers access to more than 4,000 surveillance cameras in the district, as well as the CTA’s entire network of 32,000 surveillance cameras; allowing police to monitor CTA train and bus platforms, turnstiles, tunnels, and pay stations in real time.
CPD Mass Transit Unit Cmdr. Matt Cline said SDSCs often help police spot crimes happening even before someone calls 911.
“This is our best example yet of how technology and policing can intersect to improve public safety,” he said.
Cline pointed to the example of a 25-year-old man who was caught on camera snatching a woman’s purse when she dozed off on the Red Line on June 8. He said the same man later also stole a tip jar from a nearby resident, and fled the scene on a Red Line train. A detective coordinated with officers assigned to the Central District SDSC and located the suspect on a CTA train, allowing police to dispatch mass transit unit tactical officers to arrest him.
When confronted with the video evidence, Cline said the suspect confessed to both crimes.
“Offenders don’t have much else to say when they have been caught on video,” Cline said.
Brown said the Central District also has more squad cars equipped with license plate readers than any other district in the city. The cameras help police more easily search for the license plates of vehicles that have been reported stolen, or otherwise linked to crimes.
The superintendent, who has repeatedly blamed Chicago’s recent surge in shootings on violent felons being released from custody too soon, said he hopes the increased reliance on surveillance video will help lead to more frequent and longer convictions for criminals.