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Norfolk's top cop talks establishing a 'Real Time Crime Center'

Interim Police Chief Michael Goldsmith is advocating for the arrival of a new tool, designed to fight crime.

NORFOLK, Va. — Norfolk is trying to step up its game when it comes to using crime-fighting technology.

In a presentation to City Council this week, interim Police Chief Michael Goldsmith explained why forming a Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) will advance the department.

"It's becoming a more and more accepted public safety practice, to have these centers operating 24/7 to be able to give us eyes on the street," Goldsmith said.

He identified the installation of automated license plate readers and live feed cameras in "crime hotspots" as some key elements to creating an RTCC. 

"What it does is that it gives officers the ability to see it happening, develop a response before they get there and make us more efficient," Goldsmith said. "If we see something developing before it actually erupts into violence, we can get officers there."

He said 21 staffers, mostly civilians with some sworn officers, will also oversee a collection of livestreams. It would include city-owned cameras and feeds from community partners, like the schools and hospital system.

City leaders consider this an efficient tool, given that their force is down by more than 200 police officers.

"Really, these become eyes of some of those positions we can't fill," Councilman Tommy Smiegel said.

"It makes you police smart, that's the key here. It has nothing to do with us policing more in the city. It's about policing, where we know we have to police," City Manager Dr. Chip Filer said.

Goldsmith anticipated the center to get up and running by June, pending funding approval. He presented initial costs of $1,960,200 are mostly covered with money from the state, though a gap of $250,000 still hangs in the balance. 

A bigger hurdle, Goldsmith noted, could be the expected recurring costs of approximately $661,500 a year.

In terms of other cities in Hampton Roads, RTCCs are a mixed bag. 

A spokesperson for Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) told 13News Now an RTCC is in the works. They believe it will be operational sometime late next summer or early fall. 

"The intended purpose is to provide enhanced analytical support and intelligence to officers in the field relating to incidents as they are happening or immediately after the event has occurred," the VBPD spokesperson said. 

There are also plans for Portsmouth to establish an RTCC of its own. In a September work session, interim Police Chief Stephen Jenkins gave a technology update in front of city council — including preliminary information about standing up the center. 

"To put us in the best position to be successful and also enhance our situational awareness, when it comes to combating crime," Jenkins said in part on September 14. 

On the Peninsula, Newport News has also operated an RTCC for more than a year. It is where Goldsmith said he recently visited. 

In neighboring Hampton, the police division has operated a Real Time Information Center (RTIC) for a few years. A spokesperson emailed 13News Now the RTIC acts "as a support function designed to assist in conducting intelligence and analysis research while providing real time support through the use of monitored camera systems."

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