surveillance cameras in Baltimore

Baltimore gets $5M grant for crime-fighting tech

The Baltimore Police Department is getting a tech refresh, thanks to a $5 million donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The grant will bolster Baltimore’s Citiwatch video surveillance program, expand license plate readers and increase the number of gunshot detectors.

The Citiwatch program, established in 2005 with 50 standalone cameras, will get 60 additional cameras, the largest single expansion since 2012, bringing the city's total number of cameras to over 800. Besides the city's cameras, the program has access to surveillance video from the Maryland State Highway Administration, the Baltimore City Department of Transportation and various local transit agencies. 

License plate readers will be installed on additional patrol cars, increasing the number of readers by 60 percent. The devices can be used to quickly identify stolen cars and other vehicles of interest, eliminating the need for officers to manually check license plate numbers against individual enforcement databases.

The city also plans to expand gunshot detection technology to cover an additional 10 square miles. The detectors push real-time alerts to officers, alerting them of shootings even when 911 hasn't been called. The system allows for more complete data and evidence collection.

“Equipping our police officers with the tools they need to fight and solve crime is a critical component of our violence reduction strategy,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “This grant will help provide state-of-the-art equipment to our police force to ensure the safety of our city’s citizens and visitors.”

The Bloomberg Philanthropies grant is the organization's latest investment in Baltimore.

In June 2016, the city was selected to join the Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities initiative that provides technical assistance to help cities accelerate their use of data and evidence in decision-making.

In June 2017, Baltimore's mayor was among 30 U.S. mayors enrolled into the inaugural class of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, a year-long program that aims to close the quality gap between training offered to private-sector executives verses their public-sector counterparts.

In January, Bloomberg Philanthropies gave the city a $500,000 multiyear grant to form an Innovation Team.  That team is tasked with using qualitative and quantitative research and analyses to assess local conditions, develop responsive solutions and measure progress.

The new crime-fighting technologies are expected to be deployed in the first half of 2018.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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