After the Webinar: What is a Real Time Crime Center and How Do You Start One? Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar Presenters Marcos Hernandez, Jared Kosina, Nichole North, and Emily Spindler, answered a number of your questions after their presentation, What is a Real Time Crime Center and How Do You Start One? Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: How do you get community involvement by providing cameras or allowing access to their cameras? 

Marcos Hernandez: So, my department, we have a couple of options. We have a program called Camera Eyes. And that program is where we reach out to citizens and we asked them, do you have surveillance cameras at your house? Would you be willing to let us document that so that, in the event of a critical incident or investigation in your neighborhood, we can combine that, and call you, knock on your door, and see if you’ll share that information? That’s, you know, totally voluntary. It goes in a registry. We don’t have access to those cameras until after the fact after something happens. So that’s our camera eyes program. The other thing we do at the Real Time Crime Center is we actively go out to community and business partners and ask; we introduce ourselves and tell them by our mission. We ask them, would you be willing to share access to your camera system with us, in our real-time crime center. And we explain how, you know, why we’re not monitoring the cameras 24/7, it’s mostly reactive, so that in the event of an emergency, investigation, or major event on your property. We can log in, see what’s happening, and provide intelligence to officers who are responding to neutralize the threat. So, we talk to the security, we have a memo of understanding that’s been drawn up. It’s gone through our legal process through the city. And so, basically, in a nutshell, the agreement is just explaining how we access the cameras for these reasons. We document every time we do that. You, as the provider can ask us at any time when you logged in and what for? That’s why we keep meticulous logs about every time we go into camera systems so that we can be totally transparent with the public. And we feel that being upfront explaining our system, being transparent convinces them. We have several ——–, we have several hotel partners, square malls are a partner of ours, we can log in to their camera system for an emergency or ongoing investigation. Our school systems, our school district is on board. So, yes, with this combination of a legal agreement, memo of understanding, meeting the security directors, meeting the right partners, and being forthcoming about what we do and why we want the cameras is how we’re getting these partnerships and they’re permitting us access to their systems.


Audience Question: How can Real Time Crime Centers be involved with solving the organized retail crime activities that are plaguing our communities?

Marcos Hernandez: But just real quickly, we’re seeking partnerships with our major retailers. We have our problems in Target, Best Buy, and Home Depot. We would definitely like to partner with them and then have access to their cameras. So, that’s one thing. The other thing I know, in my role as East Valley Fusion Center Liaison, I’m sharing more and more information with my department as well as all the other departments that are members. Sharing as much information with all of us as I can, about every retail — crime, every Home Depot burglary because, as Nikki said in her presentation, the criminals don’t care about borders, they go where it’s convenient. They go to any city where they think they can commit the crime and get away with it. So, so sharing the information is very important.


Audience Question: How did the presenters see the Real Time Crime Center’s role in the rollout of Next Gen 911? 

Marcos Hernandez: I can tell you that our department is working to acquire that. We haven’t yet in our Real Time Crime Center. Being in the same room as Mesa PD’s Real Time Crime Center, I know that they have it and I can’t wait for us to get it, I think it’s extremely important for Real Time Crime Center technicians to either… Well, I’d say it’s an advantage if you’re in the same room as your call takers, especially if you have some experience being a call taker, which I do, but you don’t have to have experience. When you listen to your call takers, and you hear what they’re saying, and the questions, they’re asking, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. And you’re like, “Okay, I need to pay attention to this. Because this could be a potential hot call, something may be, going wrong. Maybe, I need to get involved.” So, either listening to your 911 operators in the same room or having the ability to remotely listen to the 911 call, If you’re in a separate room, I think it’s, it’s very important that I look forward for my department to get it implemented.

Jared Kosina: I can tell you, like most of us, one of the first things we did is we brought dispatch in and basically show them like, “Here’s what we’re doing, here’s what we’re not. We’re not you. No one can ever replace what you guys do. But we’re a partnership, so yeah, we’re going to be using technology to listen to what you’re doing. But we’re not going to be stepping on your toes. We are reactive only. The only purpose of it is so we can get on scene and get information quicker.” But prospectively laying those boundaries and guidelines that we’re not trying to replace you. We’ll never replace you.


Audience Question: Are there any resources for an agency on how to create a drone first responder program that is connected to a Real Time Crime Center? 

Jared Kosina: So, yes. There is so much technology out there right now.

There’s plenty of software and stuff like that you can utilize to either stream into your center, or remotely launch from your center. Being a part 107 pilot with the FAA, you know, to be able to fly beyond visual line of sight. You need special permission and things like that. There are technology companies out there that can help you get that. If you want to look at a case study, look at Pearland, Texas. They were kind of the first ones to do it. My department is following suit so, you can shoot me an e-mail, and I can help you with that process. But there are kind of two ways of doing it. Glendale, in Arizona, here does a great job as they fly right out of their headquarters and they have an officer on the roof that does that, or they can also take over remotely when an officer launches are drawn from the back of the Patrol Car. That’s how my department does it right now,  our officer will pull up on-scene and launch a drone. And if need be the Real Time Crime Center can take over that feed so the officer can focus on the call.

Marcos Hernandez: Scottsdale PD is teaming up with Axon who is a local vendor. And we are training pilots we have, I think, I believe we have at least 20 pilots both sworn officers and police aides who worked in the field. So, we have the traditional drone, which you deploy, and you control with a remote, obviously. And then we’re going to be utilizing the – they have a unique name – something called Kites, they’re permanently mounted to a unit. Usually, on the roof of the trunk, you open the case, the drone goes up into the air and it’s tethered, so it can remain in the air for an indefinite amount of time. And although you can’t really fly it to and fro, you can’t beat the bird’s eye view. So, Scottsdale is working to acquire that technology. But we do have several drone pilots and traditional drones that are deployed in the field.


Audience Question: Can you share examples of SOPs, policies, or MOUs, or if you can put audience members in touch with other Real Time Crime Centers in their area? Is that something that the association does? 

Nichole North: Yes, I keep a list of every member that signs up, and then I also reach out as much as I could nationally. We have about 150 centers on the list. We’re estimating there are probably 300 to 400 which is significantly more than what we have. So, they’ll actually help us to, if they’re trying to serve a Crime Center, they might know someone there that we don’t know, and we can kind of share. So that’s something we naturally do for them.


Audience Question: What metrics do you use to measure performance and report on return on investment to your agencies for Real-Time Crime Centers?

Emily Spindler: I can take that one. But I think it really just depends on the agency. And I think that probably the four of us that are here probably do it a little bit differently, and I think there are probably different expectations for each agency. But really making sure that the proper notes are kept as far as what technology is being useful. How many times are we able to use that technology? If it’s a camera, how many times are we using that in a month, or is it something that actually, there’s not much crime over there, we’re not actually using that. Same thing with the license plate readers just making sure that what systems we’re utilizing are actually beneficial, and we’re actually using them on calls. And, again, whether that’s keeping those notes in a spreadsheet. Again, if it’s involving a crime, you would have to have that criminal documentation, as well. But being able to use some form of system to say, these are the systems that I used on this particular event, and they were helpful or not, and I can let the others chime in. Like I said, I think, and probably every department expects a little bit differently, but that’s kind of how ours does.

Marcos Hernandez: In Scottsdale, for the purposes of sharing successes, documenting how well our Real Time Crime Center is doing. In conjunction with our technology services division, we came up with this, what we call, incident tracker report. And so, everything that we usually touch, gets a report. So, we document, which of our operators are on the call, what type of call it is, the location, when did it start? We also keep track of when our center when our technician arrives on scene virtually versus when the officer or police aid arrives, we call that our virtual response. And the last statistic we had was that our Real Time Crime Center takes, on average, for every call that we could respond to virtually, meaning get a camera on scene and provide intel, we were on-scene at least four minutes before the officers and police they could get there. So, that’s a very important statistic I recommend that you keep track of. I think it’ll make chiefs very happy. We also keep track of all the resources that we use, because I want to say, “Hey, we use Accurint every day. No, we don’t use TLO much. Let’s take the money and do something else,” for example. Just real quickly, documenting the cameras that we use so that we can justify to traffic division. “Hey, we need the cameras at the major intersections. Maybe we don’t need the camera at this one, let’s relocate it to a higher profile, an intersection.” And then, just lastly, real quick, we have critical tasks that we keep track of. The Overwatch or Virtual Response, anytime we hit a database, anytime we do any video evidence, so, recording something in progress and uploading it into evidence to support the case, any tactical workup that we do, and anytime we liaison with another agency, we call those are critical tasks we keep track of those. And like I said, there’s other information that we keep track of, but I would say those are probably the most important ones. And also put up put a checkbox on there anytime you have a success. You catch a bank robber, you catch or recover a stolen vehicle. Put a check box for your monthly success report, and then your supervisor can run a quick report, tell the chiefs we’ve recovered X amount of vehicles, stopped two bank robbers. It puts a smile on your bosses’ faces that way.


Audience Question: How long does it take to get and start an RTCC and get it operational from beginning to end? What’s the average length of time to get it an RTCC operational? 

Nichole North: I think that seems to be everyone’s really common question, that they think it takes years and years and years. You could technically start one tomorrow if you wanted. Obviously, you’re not going to have all the technology and everything that goes into it, but just the basics of starting to look at calls from a more in-progress perspective, like you could start doing that tomorrow. I would say to actually get all the tech and everything, you’re probably looking at more, like at least a year or two, but to just start it, pretty much, immediately.


Audience Question: How did your Real Time Crime Center change or evolve as you find out about major events that are coming to town. Whether it’s NC2A Tournament, the Stanley Cup, a national convention, or even a presidential event? How does your Real Time Crime Center ebb and flow and change staffing, or do you partner with other Real Time Crime Centers in the area to address these evolving live event needs? 

Marcos Hernandez: Scottsdale’s Real Time Crime Center is not fully staffed 24/7 yet. We have weekend coverage until about midnight. However, at any special events, on the weekends, we have a very concentrated popular bar district. So, any special events, any special permits, concerts, whatever. We’ll adjust our schedules to work, maybe 2 or 3 AM, during the weekend during those events. And then last year, Scottsdale had the Phoenix Waste Management Phoenix Open. Then we have the Super Bowl before that we have an auto auction. And so, January and February it was super busy for us in Scottsdale. We reached out to nearby crime senators who are hosting events. We had good relationships with those partners. We were dealing with lots of federal partners, —— was involved, and they created what’s the term they use, workrooms, like chatrooms, for sharing information? I can’t count the number of federal, and state agencies that we were liaisoning with just to cover those three events. So, needless to say, because our center isn’t fully staffed yet. It was about 2 or 3 weeks of, you know, maybe one day off. But, uh, we pulled it through, and we’ve kind of done it without the cooperation of those partners.

Jared Kosina: The beauty of it is, since everything is for the most part, web-based, I can call Emily across the country and be like, “Hey, I have a huge event. I don’t have time. I’m going to send you my camera feeds, can you provide overwatch for me?” We have a force multiplier across the entire country. I can have Marcos, Nikki, and Emily, I’ll be like, “Hey, you each take a section of my event, because I don’t have time to watch it all, let me know if anything happens.” So, you now opened up, basically, a huge force multiplier across the country.


Audience Question: How do I become a member of the National Real Time Crime Center Association? 

Nichole North: If you just go onto that website at the beginning,  There is a membership area, and it’s basically just two steps. There’s a little form you’ll fill out that basically gives us all your info. And then you pay $25, and you are all set.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of What is a Real Time Crime Center and How Do You Start One?


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