Sheriff's Office uses real-time video feeds, license plate readers, squad-car mapping

Technology, Information, Intelligence are brains of new Crime Center

A real-time video feed from a school could pinpoint an active shooter moving classroom to classroom.

License plate readers county-wide could immediately alert deputies and police to a stolen car, sex offender, or silver alert driver.

On-demand blueprints for a school layout could guide first responders through hallways and corridors.

Intelligence officers, crime analysts, Crime Stoppers deputies, and auto theft investigators staff the new state-of-the-art Crime Center at the Volusia County Communications Center 16 hours per day, five days per week, feeding real-time information to deputies and officers across the county.

Sheriff Ben Johnson brought the team and technology together in a newly-renovated training room.

"Basically in the old days you'd get an address and go there and handle it," said Sheriff Ben Johnson. "What we're looking for is to be able to give our officers the correct information so they can approach a scene safely."

The Crime Center is lined with desks, computers with multiple-monitors and a projection screen that will be capable of projecting dozens of images and video feeds at one time.

When News 6 visited, Lt. Brian Henderson displayed real-time patrol car tracking technology that pinpoints the exact location of every single patrol, fire and EMS vehicle from all agencies across Volusia County. Henderson calls it "Forcewatch."

"If we lost radio contact with a deputy in any of the jurisdictions, we pull them up on the map and figure out where they are and send resources," said Henderson.

The information technology team at the Volusia County Sheriff's office designed the Forcewatch software for all Volusia County law enforcement agencies.

"Child abductions, bank robberies, anything you can imagine," said Henderson.

Henderson also showed News 6 license plate reading software linked to cameras placed around the county.

"If someone is a registered sex offender, and they're traveling in a certain area, it'll notify us of a hit on one of our license plate readers," said Henderson. "And if we see maybe a suspect vehicle, maybe it's a red car go through an intersection, we can quarterback them [deputies] to that area."

Amanda Jilliski, a crime analyst, was helping an investigator with an armed burglary case.

"He emailed me over the suspects and wanted associates, associates' addresses, phone numbers," said Jilliski. "Because they can go out there and do what they need to do on the streets while I'm in the background getting the information for them."

Information generated by the Crime Center is sent to deputies and officers in the field by text, email, or in urgent situations over the radio.

Sheriff Johnson said his goal is to eventually operate the Crime Center 24 hours a day and incorporate live video feeds from schools, government buildings, and anyone who wants to allow access.

"But the important thing is we're not trying to get into people's personal lives," said Johnson. "This is strictly a crime-fighting tool and to protect people's lives."

Johnson said the technology and the people behind it at the Crime Center will better prepare officers and deputies for what they're about to encounter, especially during "hot calls."

"In today's world, what you're looking for is efficiency and effectiveness," said Johnson. "And by tying all these unit together you're going be more efficient and effective. And protect our officers and citizens better."

Johnson said the cost of the Crime Center is $500,000-$600,000, paid for by forfeiture funds.

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