Birmingham to increase surveillance efforts with federal and state grants

Birmingham City Council approved a resolution on Tuesday allow the mayor’s office to apply for a grant from state and federal sources to purchase and maintain new license plate recognition cameras and high-definition cameras throughout the city in an effort to thwart high rates of homicides and other violent crimes in Birmingham.

An increase of $ 394,231.50 to the city’s contract with Texas-based Tyler Technologies was also approved on Tuesday, to provide maintenance and support services to the city’s computer-aided dispatch system.

Grant funds, a total of $ 100,000 for license plate readers and $ 35,000 for high definition cameras, will come from the US Department of Justice through the Security Division of the Alabama Law Enforcement from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

In September of last year, the city council approved an initial agreement with Alabama Power to install ten license plate readers in the city, angering members of the community and action groups, namely the People’s Budget Birmingham, who saw the deal as a continued increase in funds for the Birmingham Police Department which they found excessive.

At the Tuesday board meeting, the resolution was passed without debate or protest from board members or the general public.

The monthly cost to paint the first ten units is $ 2,291.67, according to Birmingham Watch.

TPL should to unveil its much-delayed $ 940,030 real-time crime center in the coming weeks, including new Motorola technology approved in October 2020.

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Among the systems is BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system for integrating and analyzing City ShotSpotter systems, police body cameras and public cameras into a single cohesive display.

The software has facial recognition capabilities, which Birmingham Mayor Woodfin said could not be used under the current contract with Motorola and would not be used in the future without explicit City Council approval.

Community members have expressed concern over the possibility that facial recognition capabilities will be used by BPD now or in the future.

Racial prejudices and mistaken identification of blacks, at rates five to ten times that of whites, are common in facial recognition technologies used by police departments in American cities.

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About Christopher Easley

Christopher Easley

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