Surveillance Command Center Construction in Delray Beach, Fla., Breaks Ground

The police captain acknowledged privacy concerns dispelling comparisons to an Orwellian "1984" society, adding that it will serve as a crime prevention tool.

by Lulu Ramadan, The Palm Beach Post, Fla. / June 29, 2016

(TNS) -- The Delray Beach, Fla., Police Department wants its residents to know: They're watching.

The department begins construction next week of a control room on the second floor of the police department, where cameras strategically placed throughout the city will feed live images to officers. The goal, as part of a three-phase plan, is to watch the city more closely to prevent and deter crime.

"We're not Big Brother and this is not '1984,' " said Capt. Thomas Mitchell, who heads the investigative unit and is overseeing the technology initiative. "This is a prevention tool."

Several city buildings — such as City Hall and the police department — have been equipped with security cameras for years, but there has never been a central location to view the surveillance footage.

The command center is the first phase in upgrading the technology to better help police monitor these areas, as well as "hot-spots" for crime, Mitchell said.

"If people looking to commit a crime believe they're being videotaped, they'll likely go someplace else," Mitchell said.

The second phase, which Mitchell and the department will pitch to the city commission for funding, includes purchasing and installing license-plate recognition systems on the edges of the city to track criminal activity as it enters and leaves.

The third phase includes purchasing new cameras and placing them in areas like the city's downtown, Mitchell said.

Those cameras would also feed to the command center, although the department isn't sure whether it will staff the command center round-the-clock. Police also want to upgrade cameras that are already in place.

"We need cameras that will zoom, pan, record and have enough megapixels to identify a person," Mitchell said.

There's no timeline on construction of the command center or placement of cameras, which still requires city approval, Mitchell said. The number of cameras will depend on the cost and the budget approved by the city.

Along with city-owned cameras, police are partnering with willing businesses that have security systems. Several businesses will have their cameras feed live to the command center as well, Mitchell said.

"This means more eyes and ears for us," Mitchell said. "Whether it s a robotic eye and ear or a human eye and ear, it's going to paint a bigger picture for us."

©2016 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.