How Detroit police are using technology to fight crime

DETROIT – We’ve seen the inside of Detroit’s real-time crime monitoring facility before, but how does it all work to keep people safe?

You’ve probably heard of Project Green Lightbut the technology Detroit Police Department has at hand to uncover the crime in the city, it goes much further than that. Their real-time crime monitoring facility features incredible technology used to help fight crime.

Shortly after 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 3, 2021, a homicide was caught on camera at Project Green Light in Detroit.

“We were able to track down the suspect before the shooting, up to an hour before we hit the streets,” said Stamatia Tsakos, executive manager of DPD’s Criminal Intelligence Division. “About 45 minutes, 50 minutes before the shooting, we were able to see him walk into a business without a mask, and that allowed us to present a really clear image of the suspect to our community.”

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The suspect was identified after tips from onlookers. He is now charged with murder. Analysts at the Detroit Police Department’s Real-Time Crime Monitoring Center believe the technology they have access to helps them fight crime faster.

“We’ve seen some non-fatal shootings, we’ve seen some homicides, we’ve seen property crimes, we’ve seen individual victims of domestic violence in these locations. So immediate access is critical,” Tsakos said.

The Crime Intelligence Unit operates 24/7. The center stores the emissions from Project Green Light cameras at 802 businesses in Detroit. Every business has a minimum of four cameras. A total of 4,338 cameras monitor Detroit. A gas station at Grand River and Wyoming avenues was a hot spot for crime.

“I was sitting in my office, people were fighting, shooting, stabbing,” said community activist Reverend Horace Sheffield.

Reverand Sheffield helped fund the cameras at this gas station, now a partner of the Green Light Project.

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“It changed the whole neighborhood,” Sheffield said. “You can talk to anyone in the neighborhood coalition and they’ll tell you the only thing that changed this neighborhood was the green light on the corner.”

And the fact that DPD is always watching. But inside the room, the technology is more than visual. Although the assets monitored there include license plate readers, analysts can also detect gunshots in certain areas of Detroit.

“We have sensors placed in these areas,” Tsakos said. “When a gun is fired somewhere in that area, these sensors triangulate the location of that shot. It goes to the shooting review center where they determine if it was a shot or not and then we get that notification within 60 seconds of that gun being fired.

“We’re hopefully reducing violent crime in the city,” said Michael McGinnis, commander of the DPD Major Crimes Unit.

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Commander McGinnis understands the importance of this technology. It helped put behind bars a suspect in the robbery and murder of a man at Andy’s Market in January last year.

“What they did is they traced back the video and found him on video at a previous establishment prior to the robbery without his mask,” he said.

“Our goal is really to create this for employee safety and also to let our community know that we have these assets available,” Tsakos said.

DPD is analyzing the data to determine where more cameras are needed. Businesses can choose to get involved and be part of Project Green Light. There are two gunshot detectors, one each on the east and west side of Detroit near Eighth and Ninth Precincts. The big screen monitors show what is happening in real time. Analysts can communicate with employees to assist as needed.

“The real strength of our program is when we can use these tools in combination,” Tsakos said.

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In the first three months of this year, DPD has made just over 16,000 visits to Project Green Light partners.

The cost to become a Project Green Light partner ranges from $4,000 to $6,000 for the cameras. There is also a small monthly fee plus an installation fee.

For more information about the program, you can click here.

Read: More local crime coverage

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