Jackson police will have access to 1,500 surveillance cameras across city under new contract

Updated: Dec. 9, 2020 at 10:53 AM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A local firm will soon give Jackson the ability to tie into some 1,500 surveillance systems across the city, via its Real Time Command Center.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Jackson City Council approved a four-year agreement with PILEUM Corporation to provide software and services needed to help the city access web-based public and private security cameras.

The $447,000 contract was approved on a 3-1 vote, with Ward Four Councilman De’Keither Stamps being the lone dissenter.

Stamps opposed the measure on privacy issues and said the funding could be better spent by increasing police pay and providing officers with additional equipment and training.

“We’re spending this but we’re not paying police officers,” he said.

Under terms of the agreement, PILEUM will phase in software and increase capacity at the Riverside Drive command center through the next year.

The first phase will include providing and installing up to 25 “fususCORE” networking devices, each of which would support up to 30 cameras.

The second phase would include adding an additional 20 fususCORE boxes, again which would allow the RTCC to access up to 30 cameras each.

The second and third phases would also include the installation of an artificial intelligence component. Although it was not clear what that AI would be used for.

According to the FUSUS website, some AI technology is used to analyze and process video data at the camera and determine whether it should be moved to the cloud for storage.

The work will cost the city up to $148,500 and will eventually give the center the ability to access as many as 1,500 cameras and 4,500 data points.

After that, Jackson will pay $99,500 a year for three years to subscribe to service.

“The city will be buying access to the FUSUS software, a cloud-based service,” said Sandy Turnage, chief operating officer with the Jackson-based PILEUM.

FUSUS software was previously installed at the center as part of a 45-day pilot program.

The new agreement will allow the city to continue to use that software and provide the equipment needed to tie into public and private security systems.

“There is a software component to it and some hardware items that come along with it as well,” Turnage explained.

Hardware components include small computer-like devices that would be attached to surveillance systems to allow the crime center to access videos.

In the case of private systems, the devices would not be attached without the owners’ written consent. The police also would only be able to access the devices when criminal activities occur.

The idea is to give the Jackson Police Department an extra set of eyes and another tool for tracking and solving crimes, even as the number of officers decreases.

“If an incident occurs, the city will be able to pull up the cameras that are closest to the incident,” he explained. “It’s very beneficial for the police department.”

The contract was approved weeks after the Lumumba administration held a ribbon cutting to mark the opening the command center.

At the time, Mayor Lumumba touted the center as an asset that the city could be proud of. The center is located on Riverside Drive and is housed in a building donated to the city by the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration.

JPD Chief James Davis said the center would be a “great investigation tool we can speedily use to solve crimes.”

The center will allow for video sharing, cell phone video sharing and live video sharing. When a crime occurs, center staffers will be able to pull up surveillance in that area to track activity and possibly collect video evidence.

The opening of the center could be welcome news for the capital city, which is facing a shortage of police officers and one of its highest homicide rates on record.

The city’s desire to access private security cameras, though, has sparked debate among some city leaders and civil liberties advocates who have privacy concerns.

City leaders, though, disavow those claims. At the November 25 ribbon cutting, Lumumba told members of the press that “this is not an effort to invade people’s privacy, nor is it an effort to take advantage of people’s reasonable expectation of privacy.

”But if you commit a crime in the middle of Capitol Street, you didn’t intend for it to be private.”

After Tuesday’s vote, Council President Aaron Banks said residents and businesses would have to sign up to provide the city access to their cameras and that the city could not access them otherwise.

“There will be some type of application process for those individuals. They have to sign it and say they would like the Real Time Command Center to have access,” he said.

JPD spokesman Sam Brown said the city’s legal department was still hammering out details on what that application process would look like.

Stamps, though, still had questions. “Once you sign up for it, once you give permission for the city to access the camera, how do you get it back?” he asked. “The city says they’ll discontinue it, but how do you know?

He also questioned whether the city had a personal conduct policy to prevent city employees from accessing cameras for nefarious purposes.

“We haven’t fully vetted this out,” Stamps said. “I don’t think the citizens who have signed up for this have fully thought it through.”

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