MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minneapolis police are the first in the country to merge two technologies to help officers fight crime.
The Minneapolis Police Department has combined shot spotter technology and a system of cameras to help catch criminals in the act.
Authorities allowed WCCO-TV's Reg Chapman into a secret location in Minneapolis, where a strategic information center is housed.
Minneapolis Police Deputy Chief Rob Allen said the room is where police gather intelligence.
"This is the room where we try and fuse the technology we have to monitor video cameras, to monitor the sounds of possible gunshots, and it's where we have our officers who are trained in intelligence gathering," he said.
The system in the room is like CBS' Thursday night show "Person of Interest," in which cameras are used to help save people from becoming victims of crime.
"If you can anticipate where crimes might happen, you got a far better chance of preventing them from occurring," Allen said.
According to Allen, when a gunshot goes off, a camera turns toward the source of the sound. Strategic Information Center Commander Lt. Jeff Rugel said the technology helped solve a case where a man was shot, killed and pushed out of a moving car. The sound of the gunfire activated the cameras, which gave police their first clue.
"We then saw a vehicle fleeing the scene," Rugel said.
That car had distinctive markings its the hood.
"We sent those pictures out to the patrol officers and said, 'Find this car,'" Rugel said. "Within a couple of days they had the car. They located it, impounded it, and then the investigators were able to do forensic tests to prove the victim was in that car."
As a result, police arrested the gunman, who was subsequently charged with murder. The cameras were instrumental in solving this case. They were also helpful in other cases, such are the shooting on Lowry Avenue and Emerson Avenue in North Minneapolis. Police were able to keep an eye on the victim and give officers a detailed description of the gunman.
City Of Eyes
The number of cameras connected to the intelligence system is growing and helping police catch more criminals. But not all the cameras are owed by the city.
"The city owns roughly 250 cameras," Allen said. "We can access right now … an infinite number of cameras."
According to Allen, any camera that has an IP address, is connected to the Internet, and that police have permission to use can give information to authorities.
So whenever you are in a public space, know that you're likely on camera. Police are using portable cameras more now than ever. They can put them where they are needed and have one up and running within an hour of the order.
Invasion Of Privacy?
But what about your right to privacy? Police say they are careful not to infringe on anyone's rights.
"Every time we installed a camera system, we went to the neighborhood and said, 'You know, this is what we've thought about doing? Do you want it or not,'" Allen said.
He says police can't look into a place where someone has the expectation of privacy. But police still have a wide reach, which gives criminals a greater chance of getting caught on camera.
Crime patterns are currently moving and Minneapolis police hope to add more portable cameras. Police believe if criminals know they are being watched they are more likely not to commit crimes.
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