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Florida County Sheriff Taps into Local Cameras for Real-Time Crime Center

The Volusia County, Fla., Sheriff's Department has used confiscated funds to build a crime center that delivers real-time crime video to responding law enforcement officers.

(TNS) -- The Volusia County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday launched its $600,000 crime center designed to provide real-time information to patrol deputies and police officers to fight crime.

The tool was two years in the making and is being paid for with confiscated funds from the forfeited property of drug dealers and other criminals, Sheriff Ben Johnson said during a press conference.

The real-time crime center was organized with the input of other Volusia County police agencies. Four crime analysts and investigators housed in the Volusia County Sheriff's Office Communications Center are equipped to relay real-time information on crimes to deputies and police officers as they approach scenes.

"It's something we've taken from all of the agencies that we have and added to it to make a crime center that we can take and help our employees and all the law enforcement officers in Volusia County safer and our citizens safer by giving them real time information on what's going on in crime," Johnson said.

Daytona Beach police started using a similar crime center two years ago to provide information to its officers.

Volusia County's crime center analysts will work in conjunction with dispatchers.

"Or, in case we happen to lose an officer, we'll know where they are," Johnson said.

Real-time analysts will also be extra eyes watching criminals in action. They will be able to tap into a live video feed from businesses and establishments with security cameras, bringing live views of suspects in crimes such as robberies or burglaries. Those images will then be relayed to responding deputies and police officers, Johnson said.

Analysts can also relay information obtained from existing Department of Transportation cameras to deputies. Cameras that are license plate readers positioned at locations in the county can provide license plate information to officers in the field and identify suspects and their associates, Johnson said. He said that kind of information could be vital in a crime such as kidnapping.

Over the next three years the Sheriff's Office will mount 22 cameras of its own throughout the county and tap into camera's in Volusia's cities. The Sheriff's Office is also working with the school board.

"If something happens (at schools) right off the bat we can send a schematic to the deputies so they can see the schematic of the school," Johnson said.

Like most large enforcement agencies, the Volusia County Sheriff's Office has technology, crime and intelligence analysts and real-time access to calls for service. Integrating all those elements will be the key to success of the crime center, said sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson.

As time goes on, cameras will be in places for real time information and the crime center can tie into homeowners associations and banks. The center's priority is to provide real-time information to "boots on the ground" about violent incidents as they unfold, sheriff's officials said.

"All emergency services will benefit from it throughout the county," Johnson said. "As time goes on we will continue to build more license plate readers and it allows us to be able to fight crime in real time."

Johnson also addressed concerns about privacy.

"This isn't big brother watching," Johnson said. "We don't care what people are doing until it comes to situations where they are violating the law, public safety or officer safety."

©2016 The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.