Birmingham City Council

City Council Approves Bid for Birmingham Real-Time Crime Center

New Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith (Source: City of Birmimgham).

The Birmingham City Council has approved a $940,030 construction bid for the city’s long-planned real-time crime center, though the identity of the bidder remains confidential.

The development of a real-time crime center was first announced by Birmingham Police Chief Patrick D. Smith in 2019 as a technological hub that would give police “a very clear picture of what’s going on throughout the city.” He said information could be transmitted directly to on-beat officers “so they know exactly what they’re looking for and who they’re looking for.”

The crime center will employ policing technology such as ShotSpotter and PredPol, as well as recently approved Motorola surveillance software that drew controversy last year for its facial recognition capabilities. Mayor Randall Woodfin has maintained that the BPD cannot use those capabilities without approval from the City Council.

The real-time crime center will be built in former storage space on the fourth floor of the Birmingham Police Department’s headquarters. Smith had previously suggested that the center would be completed and operational by mid-to-late 2020; Woodfin’s office says the “target date” for the project is May 2021 and that the center “is still moving along the intended schedule.”

Alabama law states that public works projects “having a direct impact on the security or safety of persons or facilities” aren’t subject to publicly advertised bidding, but to a private, informal bidding process — so the contractor for the project will remain anonymous.