BoC meeting 3/23 (copy)

From left, Former Cobb Police Chief Michael Register, Sheriff Craig Owens and Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox joined Finance Director Bill Volckmann last month to request $2 million for security costs associated with the 2021 All-Star Game. While much of that spending will be returned to the county, Cox and Owens are asking to keep several of the purchases in that package.

Cobb commissioners will vote Tuesday on the purchase of a centralized surveillance center for Cobb Police headquarters, which would give the department unprecedented ability to monitor activity across the county.

The real time crime center (RTCC), as the system is known, integrates multiple existing police technologies into a streamlined platform with a large video array. It can pull live video feeds from public and private cameras (with the owner’s consent), scan license plates for “hits” on outstanding warrants, and uses “shot spotter” technology to locate gunfire.

The purchase was originally greenlit as part of the $2 million security spending package commissioners approved in March for the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game. While many of those expenditures are being canceled given MLB’s decision to relocate the game in protest of Georgia’s new elections law, Cobb Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said weeks ago she was interested in moving forward with the RTCC given its long-term value to the county.

If approved, the RTCC would have an up-front cost of $605,000 and an estimated yearly operating cost of $400,000. Cobb Police Chief Tim Cox thinks it’s well worth the investment.

“While there would have been a benefit to the All-Star Game, it was not just something for (that). It’s something to carry on into the future,” Cox said during a recent tour of the department’s new headquarters on Fairground Street.

As Cox explained, both the Atlanta and Gwinnett County Police Departments are already online with RTCCs. When Cobb gets up and running, departments could share information across the entire northern arc of the metro area.

“Then if you can get maybe Clayton or Henry (counties) on the south side, you could have real time crime centers with video for most of metro Atlanta,” Cox said.

Commissioner Keli Gambrill said earlier this month she views the real time crime center as a net savings for the county.

“The real time crime center would be a lot cheaper than building a new precinct,” Gambrill said. Her comments referenced discussions at the board’s retreat in January around adding a sixth Cobb Police precinct near Six Flags.

The crime center isn’t the only new law enforcement expense the board will be asked to approve. The Cobb Sheriff’s Office has asked to keep several of the items approved in the All-Star package, including two aerial surveillance drones and ten compact rifles equipped with optics, for use in dense crowds.

Sheriff Craig Owens has also requested approval for a five-year, $9 million contract to replace the office’s body cameras, Tasers and in-car cameras. Another request is for a $327,000 “Bearcat” armored transport vehicle, which Owens said will replace an older, outdated model.

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