SBPD unveils Real Time Crime Center—with hopes to increase efficiency and prevent upticks in criminal activity

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Tucked inside the South Bend Police headquarters, the Real Time Crime Center is finally online.

It’s the first of its kind for any department in St. Joe County.

“It’s certainly a great tool in our toolbox,” explained Assistant Chief Dan Skibins. “This combines tools. We’ve had ShotSpotter, we’ve had license plate readers. But a tool now puts all those together, and we can supply officers out on the street real time information on what’s taken place.”

The center collects data from a wide variety of sources, such as Twitter Dashboard, ShotSpotter, the license plate reading software Flock and surveillance cameras all over the city—all monitored by a team of analysts, who can relay that info to officers on the street, providing descriptions of suspects, getaway cars and more.

“Closure on cases—even on scene!” said Skibins. “Identifying where people may have gone to after an incident occurred. Tracking down witnesses to develop suspects. We plan on becoming more efficient because of our real time crime center.”

While the Real Time Crime center hopes to make the department more efficient in closing cases—it’s still in its early days.

Right now, it will not be monitored 24/7. For the first six months, the department will work to identify key times when the crime center should be monitored, or if it needs to be monitored for longer than the current eight to 10 hour period, and if they will need more than the five analysts currently on staff.

Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski believed having the center will help to cut down on crimes happening city wide—though the focus will be on violent crimes.

“Everything else is secondary,” he said, adding “We’re highly likely going to see reductions in all other crimes too, including property crimes, on top of this.”

The city is already looking to expand its coverage by partnering with business owners who have exterior surveillance cameras—to see if they will be able to use them in the real time feed.

All they would need to do is install a ‘core’ that would integrate the camera feeds into the city’s system, and pay for a subscription service.

“We know once camera expansion starts, our capabilities in here will be two, three, maybe even fourfold.” Said Skibins—who added that four businesses are already looking to join the program.

Mayor James Mueller believed that community participation is key in fully utilizing what the crime center has to offer.

“Mostly larger cities have been able to implement systems like this, and you’ve seen in those cities that there’s been a reduction of crime,” Mueller said. “And so we are looking to bring that here in South Bend and reap the benefits and improve the quality of life for our residents.”

Though Skibins warned there could be an initial uptick in reported crimes in the city as the program goes live.

“From a statistics point of view, we’ll probably see an increase in the number of crimes reported,” he said. “That’s what we’re hearing from chiefs from other agencies. They know that law enforcement now has these tools. In the past, maybe they wouldn’t have called in and reported a crime having taken place because they didn’t think they could generate a suspect. They didn’t want to file with their insurance. Now they know that we have these technologies so the likelihood that more people will call in to file reports—we expect that to increase early on.”

Skibins believed these numbers would eventually taper off.

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