The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) is participating in a new pilot program dubbed Operation Green Light. Ald. Ashanti Hamilton, the Villard Avenue BID [Business Improvement District], and members of the business community are working together on the program, which aims to funnel real-time intelligence for criminal investigations to the city’s fusion center.
Part of the real-time intelligence pilot program involves installing high visibility cameras in areas the city is looking to develop. The cameras are outfitted with license plate reader technology, and stream directly to the fusion center. Wisconsin has two fusion centers, the one in Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Statewide Information Center in Madison. Fusion centers were part of a U.S. homeland security strategy following the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, DC, on Sept. 11, 2001. Although initially designed to fill intelligence gaps and detect terrorism, fusion centers have increasingly been utilized for street-level crime.
According to an MPD press release, there are currently four cameras mounted on West Villard Avenue from North Teutonia Avenue to North Hopkins Street. “MPD is working with the Villard Avenue BID to add more cameras,” the press release states. “All participating businesses must sign a Participant Agreement committing to being a good business partner.” The release highlights MPD’s hopes “to expand this program to other areas of the city.”
The fusion center has a multitude of functions, from gun ballistics analysis to social media monitoring to tracking and cracking modern cell phones. It also operates the city’s ShotSpotter system, which uses audio sensors around the city to triangulate suspected gun shots. The fusion center has used the ShotSpotter system in tandem with city cameras under its control as well, activating cameras within the vicinity of a ShotSpotter alert.
MPD told Wisconsin Examiner that Operation Green Light is not part of the ShotSpotter program. The department’s press office also explained, “The license plate reader cameras that were installed are Automated License Plate Reader cameras. The cameras may capture audio. It depends on the camera options that the business chooses to install.” The fusion center’s activities have received increasing attention over the last year.
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