Milwaukee’s fusion center working with businesses to install cameras

By: - October 27, 2021 5:39 am
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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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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.