Albuquerque Real-Time Crime Center
Albuquerque Police Department
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Source: Albuquerque Mayor’s Office
The Albuquerque Police Department (APD) launched the Albuquerque Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC) in 2013. As part of APD’s overall predictive policing strategy, the RTCC uses a combination of public and private cameras, face recognition databases, and social media monitoring software.
According to a detailed conference presentation about building the RTCC, APD began the planning phase in 2011, but the Albuquerque City Council rejected funding for the program the following year. APD then pivoted to building a smaller prototype of an RTCC to monitor just the city’s southeastern district. Sandia National Labs joined the project to monitor the system’s effectiveness. After restructuring the proposal, APD secured about $800,000 through city bonds and federal funding to build the RTCC. The RTCC is managed by APD’s “Smart Policing Division.”
Real-Time Crime Center Operations
Outside the Real-Time Crime Center
In addition to the 274 pan-tilt-zoom cameras and low-light resolution cameras used by the city, the RTCC is also able to access private sector IP cameras and live-feeds, such as those maintained by businesses and homeowners associations. In 2018, APD also received access to 88 cameras at Albuquerque Rapid Transit stations along the city’s central corridor.
In total, RTCC staff have access to 1,900 live video camera feeds as of May 2019.
In 2019, a city council member used $155,500 in discretionary funds to purchase new equipment to increase the RTCC’s capabilities. This included two mobile real-time crime center trailers, essentially satellite command centers that are used to monitor surveillance feeds while officers are in the field. Also in 2019, APD purchased a new helicopter that is connected to the RTCC.
According to POLICE magazine, the RTCC has also outfitted patrol officers in the southeastern section of the city with mobile devices that allow them to take photos of people during encounters and match them to the RTCC’s face recognition database.
The Albuquerque Police Department stopped using automated license plate readers on police vehicles in 2018, but began pursuing stationary ALPR units and mobile ALPR trailers, according to records from APD’s Office of Policy Analysis. As of spring 2020, APD’s ALPR policies were under revision, with the RTCC manager reporting that the ALPR program would soon be “revived.” Indeed, ALPR, as well as gunshot technology, are part of a $20 million policing technology upgrade announced by the Albuquerque mayor’s office in January 2020.
Inside the Real-Time Crime Center
The RTCC operates in the renovated wing of APD’s downtown station. It is staffed by 12 sworn officers, four civilian crime analysts, two civilian video production workers, a video intelligence sergeant, and a detective. According to the launch announcement, the sworn officers are “officers who have been injured or pregnant and are recovering or awaiting to give birth before they can go back to the streets.”
The RTCC has nine workstations and a wall of 17 video monitors that displays camera feeds, computer-aided dispatch information, a social media feed, local TV news, and real-time location of individuals wearing electronic monitoring devices, according to a report from StateTech magazine. It also has a 200,000-mugshot database outfitted with face recognition software, which, in addition to deployment in the field, is used to identify individuals caught on surveillance footage.
RTCC analysts have access to “dozens” of local, federal and “public” databases. RTCC analysts previously used Snaptrends, a software program used to surveil social media posts. However, after Twitter and Facebook cut off Snaptrends’s access to their systems, the company announced it would no longer work with law enforcement.
Uses and Controversies
In response to a 2019 trend of shootings, APD officials declared gun violence a public health threat. The city announced initiatives to reduce gun violence, with the foremost plan using the RTCC to analyze gun violence patterns in order to dispatch officers to areas where it is most likely to occur.
The first major RTCC success cited by city officials involved investigating a Facebook post in which a parent allegedly said they planned to murder their children. On the first day of the initial pilot project, “the RTCC was able to trace an internet protocol address, locate a picture, home address and criminal history of the Facebook poster and send officers to his home,” APD claimed on Facebook.
The ACLU of New Mexico raised concerns when the RTCC was launched in 2013, telling the Albuquerque Journal, “The department has created a system that has the potential to collect massive amounts of data and establish patterns of activity that the police might take as suspicious, but that are in fact activity that is perfectly law abiding.” Civil liberties organizations have also criticized APD’s widespread use of face recognition.
When APD appointed Leonard Nerbetski, a former New Jersey state trooper, as the civilian manager of Albuquerque’s Real-Time Crime Center, the press uncovered a 1996 lawsuit where Nerbetski was accused of excessive force and racial profiling. The case was settled for $775,000 and APD defended its decision to hire Nerbestki, despite the controversy.
Last Updated Nov. 13, 2020