Farmington's Real-Time Crime Center Saving Lives

12/10/2021

The Farmington Police Department calls it the future of policing: high-powered cameras that monitor streets and parks in real-time to prevent or solve crimes. Sponsored by Farmington Ace Hardware and Service Master Restore

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The Farmington Police Department hopes real-time surveillance of city streets with high-powered cameras will reduce crime. They already know it saves lives. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Farmington ACE hardware and Service Master Restore. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. The city of Farmington has become only the third municipality in New Mexico to employ a real-time crime center to monitor city streets, assist police officers on calls, solve crimes, and even save lives. The crime center deploys more than 150 high powered surveillance cameras throughout the city. That send images in real time to a bank of digital screens at Farmington police headquarters. If you're in a crash, the cameras will know who's at fault, robbery and progress. The cameras can follow the perpetrators while dispatch relays their location to patrol officers who arrive on the scene in time for an arrest. Think of the cameras as an additional 150 officers on patrol.

Overall, what it's going to do for us is be a force multiplier. I can't have officers everywhere at the same time. We aren't going to be able to monitor all the different remote locations around the city and have an officer there promptly, but this'll give us the ability, much greater ability to solve crime and to keep people safe.

Like police departments throughout the country. The Farmington force is short-staffed and struggles to fill vacancies. Of the 138 patrol positions allocated only 130 are filled right now. And even without the vacancies, police are hard pressed to be everywhere all the time, especially along park trails or in more isolated parts of the city, they've already helped the police department catch DUI suspects who fled accident scenes and what the camera's ability to focus in on facial features and license plates. Police have all but eliminated dangerous, and sometimes fatal drag racing along 20th street. More recently, the cameras prevented a middle school student from committing suicide.

We know with COVID and some of those things that people are struggling emotionally and in different ways. And we had a juvenile in crisis at Heights Middle School, and he fled on foot and had already given indications that he wanted to commit suicide. And we have a camera that's quite a ways off several miles off, but the power of the cameras, we could see the juvenile with this camera by its capabilities, walking along a Ridge line, south opinion Hills golf course. And so we deployed officers to the area while the camera kept monitor of the kid, as much as it was able to. By the time officers got there, the kid already put a noose around his neck and was attempting to hang himself. But by us being able to utilize the cameras, we were able to stop that and get the juvenile help for that day. And so far, nothing else regarding that juvenile has happened. So we were able to stop an event that would have been a crisis for the juvenile and for the family.

The city has spent more than a million dollars installing cameras and infrastructure since August, 2019. Most of which came from state and federal grants. Harvey says the department is well aware of the privacy issues that cameras may raise, but the department has strict policies in place to ensure that citizens rights are protected while also ensuring their safety.

Is this big brother. It is not, that is not what we want. We live in in this community. We have friends and family in this community. We are not wanting to be watching people, but we had a school shooting in Aztec and just a few years back and honestly for the police to be able in real time basis to go into a school access, those cameras, see where the shooters are and what's going on, allows us to respond a lot faster, a lot more accurately and save people's lives. So there is a balancing act that we're going through. We have hard policies and it is absolutely our motto that we are not violating people's rights. We are not just following them around town and we are not storing data. So the cameras will erase over themselves, they record over themselves. So we've got about seven days worth of storage in each camera, and then it's gone. If we have an access to it for a criminal case that we're pulling it off and saving it, it's going to be gone.

To learn more about the Farmington Police Department, real-time crime center visit the city of Farmington's website at fmtn.org. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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