AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – The Amarillo Police Department is one step closer to modernizing the department with a new Real-Time Crime Center.
With the help of a $500,000 grant from the Department of Justice through the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Smart Policing Initiative, along with other funds from the city of Amarillo’s allocation of American Rescue Plan act funds, the goal for this new Real-Time Crime Center is for the Amarillo Police Department to have a centralized information center for multiple data sources, helping synthesize information to help officers out in the field on a daily basis.
According to documents from the Department of Justice, the center will use technology, including surveillance cameras and license plate readers, along with crime analysts, to increase the department’s efforts, focusing on homicides, aggravated assaults and robberies within the Amarillo area.
“This effort will advance the APD into modern policing practices and support the entire community’s public safety goals,” the documents read.
Martin Birkenfeld, the chief of the Amarillo Police Department, said that the process to develop the approximately $1.5 million Real-Time Crime Center began about a year ago. Because of how expensive the project is, the department applied for grants, including the one through the Smart Policing Initiative.
Once the center is implemented, it will expand the Amarillo Police Department’s capabilities “by a lot,” Birkenfeld said.
“Looking at gaps in information that we have here, we realized that over the last few years, technology has advanced on the ability to bring in, for example, video from outside sources and be able to look at stuff in real-time,” he said. “We’ve looked at examples of real-time crime centers across the country and we feel like that’s a good option for Amarillo.”
This new technology will be able to help the police department in many scenarios, Birkenfeld said, speaking about how it would have assisted the investigation on the string of shootings that occurred over Labor Day weekend in Amarillo.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, 18-year-old David Winfield was arrested on four charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after police were called to a string of shootings on Sept. 6.
“The ability for us to do immediate research on a person’s name, or a suspect vehicle, is vital to being able to effectively respond to calls,” he said. “So, in the example where we had the active shooter that was going around and shooting at random vehicles, there was video out there, we just didn’t have immediate access to it. The real-time crime center will allow us to have immediate access to some of our video sources, not only that we own but we can build partnerships with local businesses or residents who are willing to share that information with us as well.”
Birkenfeld said it makes him feel good that the department is supported by federal partners, along with other local agencies. He believes that this new center will have a positive impact in the area when it is fully functional in two to three years.
“I think it’ll have a positive impact on our area. Amarillo is a hub for business and a hub for commerce here. But, it’s also a hub for crime sometimes. Some of the crooks that come here to do other crimes. They go back to their hometown, which may be nearby, or vice versa. We certainly have the ability to communicate with other agencies locally and have a better ability to solve those crimes, hold those folks accountable for their crimes, even if they’re crossing over jurisdictions,” Birkenfeld said. “Our mission statement has always been to make Amarillo a safe place to live, work and play. The police department is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make that happen. We’re willing to learn, we’re happy to bring on new technology to make that mission come true.”
Congressman Ronny Jackson, the representative for District 13 which covers Amarillo, threw his support behind the center in a tweet earlier this month, stating that the project “will help keep our community safe! #BackTheBlue.”
Birkenfeld said the department is going to make progress narrowing down the potential locations for this center in early 2022, starting construction as soon as they get the chance. Officials with the Amarillo Police Department are also speaking with companies regarding the technology that will be needed for this center.
For more information about the Amarillo Police Department, visit the department’s website.