$3.5 million Jacksonville surveillance camera upgrade could benefit JSO

Jacksonville, FL — With the aim of streamlining the overall system and aiding investigations by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the City Council is now considering a plan to spend close to $3.5 million upgrading and replacing security cameras and related systems at City buildings.

WOKV previously reported that $3 million was set aside for this as part of the annual budget process. Several departments had sought upgraded equipment, and the Administration decided to form a working group to look at the need from a more broad perspective, rather than continuing to have each department handle their own procurement. Details obtained by WOKV now show that working group has recommended 1,666 new cameras from three main vendors- Lenel, Geutebruck, and Optiview. That includes new cameras mainly at public libraries, the County Courthouse, and Tax Collector branches, as well as a few other locations and some recording and storage upgrades.

The overall ask totals $3,456,857, though. The $456,857 that’s over the $3 million already set aside will come from Public Parking’s budget and will focus specifically on new cameras for the Ed Ball garage and Water Street garage, as well as a new video recording server for all Public Parking locations.

IN DEPTH: Jacksonville's $1.2 billion budget

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s Chief of Staff Brian Hughes, who led up the working group on this matter, says this recommendation reduces the number of vendors being used and involves vendors that IT employees are already familiar with. He says looking at this from a more broad perspective also let them realize some cost savings, as part of negotiating a larger deal. But the biggest impact in these upgrades could instead be on the benefit it may provide to JSO.

“Making sure that, if we make these investments in technology for video surveillance, that they were systems that would integrate with JSO’s programming,” Hughes says.

Currently, if JSO sees City surveillance cameras that may have captured something important to an investigation, they have to work through a process of requesting that footage and then physically obtaining it, according to Hughes. He says that’s because the current camera system uses recording and storage devices that are not network- or cloud-based.

In recent months, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has been setting up a "Real-Time Crime Center", which is built around software called CommandCentral Aware, which grabs many different information feeds and streamlines them to then relay to first responders and investigators. By replacing the current cameras and recording systems with ones that are compatible with wireless networking, the new infrastructure can feed in to the CommandCentral Aware system directly, meaning video that used to take hours or more to obtain can now be accessed very quickly.

IN DEPTH: What is a "Real Time Crime Center"

“If, let’s say, something happened on a street, any street. If they [JSO] know a government building is there and it’s a cloud-based system that they’ve logged in to their capabilities, they can- in a much faster time- access the feed and say ‘Oh, that camera faces out on to the street that we want to see if a car drove by’, or see who was walking on the street, or driving by at the moment when an incident happened,” Hughes says.

The RTCC system is able to search those video feeds and synch up various streams, in an effort to create a comprehensive look at a scene and find potential evidence and leads.

These camera replacements represent the needs that were expressed to the Administration in the lead up to the last budget cycle, but not all of the cameras and infrastructure in the City. WOKV asked if the Administration’s intent is to continue replacing this tech at their end of life, or if they will look at proactively upgrading existing tech in order to further support the RTCC.

“Those decisions are obviously budget impact decisions, and we try to weigh all the priorities that are coming forth in the budget process, as we prepare for Council’s consideration. But, obviously, public safety is a number one priority for the Mayor, so wherever we can find the possibility of contributing to public safety, we will. But we have to balance that, as always, with all of the other budget priorities,” Hughes says.

He says this process will help guide them in the event other City departments request security camera and system upgrades in the next budget. They are looking at several different vendors because Hughes says there are unique needs that each one can address in various departments, but the core focus is that all of the upgrades will be capable of wireless- and cloud based-networking.

City Council must still approve this plan in the coming weeks, although the money that’s being used has already been earmarked for these purposes. If approved, Hughes says there will be some steps that take place in procurement, but they will look to deploy the new cameras and systems as soon as possible.

The RTCC is also fed by programs like ShotSpotter, which detects the sound of gunshots and alerts police, even if there is no 911 cal that's placed. It further integrates the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which compares ballistic evidence against other cases. JSO recently doubled the equipment they have to process evidence through NIBIN. While the intelligence-based technology and systems continue to expand in Jacksonville, City leaders have also tried other measures to reach in to neighborhoods to address violence, through a program awarding grants to small community organizations. JSO has also been rolling out hundreds of body cameras.

Despite that, we saw a spike of violence in Jacksonville this past weekend, with at least seven shootings leaving four people dead and five others hurt. WOKV will continue to press City leadership for insight on what kind of returns these investments are getting.

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