STARKVILLE — Starkville Police Department is on its way to creating a safer, more efficient way to monitor crime in the city.
Since Jan. 1, Police Chief Mark Ballard said Starkville has seen 38 major crimes, and SPD has solved 36 of them, largely due to surveillance cameras. While SPD has multiple cameras set up throughout the city, with a new camera system, the department may have access to even more footage and information.
Fusus, a platform where business and residential owners can share footage with the police, will soon be implemented across the city. Cameras can directly send video to officers, contributing to the agency’s capacity for critical incident management.
Ballard said he believes this is the next step in solving crime in the city and creating a safer atmosphere for residents.
“We’re at a crossroads as a community, as a city, with our camera systems right now,” Ballard said. “… The city can’t simply put a camera everywhere. What this is is a concept of combining private partnerships with business owners… to participate in public safety.”
Fusus works by placing a “core” into an existing camera system. That core sends video footage to a virtual cloud where police officers are at the front end, Fusus Public Safety Advisor Richard Ring said at the board’s work session Friday.
While this $65,000 per year system has already been planned into the city’s budget, the board of aldermen will still have to approve the funding at its regular board meeting Tuesday.
Earlier this year, Columbus Police Department partnered with Ring to grant police and fire department access to camera footage from video doorbells. Unlike Columbus’ arrangement, Fusus can be used on any existing camera system. Camera owners can purchase core “boxes” to be installed into their current camera systems for $200 for access to up to four cameras or $600 for up to 25 cameras.
“(Private entities) can all have different systems, and we can bring them to the police department, so when a call goes out for service, the police have increased situational awareness,” Ring said. “Instead of sending 10 officers to a call when there’s only a need for two, they’ll be able to do that with Fusus.”
SPD will have a registered map of all public and private cameras in the region. Ballard said SPD Record Clerk Lee Upchurch will be the prominent supervisor for video surveillance, but detectives or investigators who need to access footage for crime information will have permission.
While business and residential owners would ultimately be giving the department permission to view their cameras’ footage, officers can not access these videos whenever they would like — they must have reason to do so, such as a lead on a crime suspect. Fusus has an “audit system” which logs every time an officer accesses a particular camera, so business owners can ask the police to see the audit to make sure they are not being watched.
Camera owners also can give SPD permission to only certain cameras and do not have to give them access to all cameras in the facility.
Ring said camera owners who install Fusus have a “panic alert,” which will notify police officers that something suspicious or troubling may be occurring at that location.
“If you have a Fusus core at your location, you can push this SOS button, and what happens is that SOS connects with the police department and any officer that is signed in will know immediately that someone is in distress at your location, and it automatically turns on cameras, too,” Ring said.
After visiting Jackson Police Department’s facility and seeing its Fusus system in the spring, Ballard said he knew he wanted to bring Fusus to SPD. JPD had a 51-percent reduction in crime after installing Fusus, and he said he hopes to see Starkville’s crime decrease with the help of this software.
“We will analyze videos for leads and these leads are generated into lead software,” Ballard said. “… I think this is a system that will make us work smarter, not harder.”