Should Alamogordo Consider what Las Cruces is Considering? Using Cannabis Proceeds for a Real Time Crime Center


According to a March 12, 2024, presentation to the city council of Las Cruces the city has collected about $1.5 million from the cannabis excise tax, which is a 12 percent tax placed on sales of legal cannabis within city limits. The tax rate will grow yearly. It stops at 18 percent on July 1, 2030. Based on the growth rate of cannabis as an industry Las Cruces can count on the money as a stable revenue source. This money can also be used for anything the city wishes, as it is considered “unrestricted.”

Josie Trevino, interim Finance Deputy Director, told the council that two possible uses for the money were the metropolitan redevelopment areas (MRAs) and the real-time crime center (RTCC).

The MRAs are small districts the council established over El Paseo/S. Solano and W. Picacho. The districts allow the city to invest public funds in infrastructure development to stimulate economic growth in those corridors.

AReal-Time Crime Center (RTCC) is a project pitched by the Las Cruces Police Department as a tool to solve and prevent crime. It would connect LCPD to public cameras and allow LCPD to surveil areas in real time. It also provides information to officers when they arrive at a scene that they might not otherwise have access to.

The council has said that both projects are top priorities. Because cannabis excise tax money is unrestricted, both can be funded.

A Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC) is a project proposed by the Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) as a powerful tool for solving and preventing crime. Here’s how it works:

  1. Surveillance in Real Time: The RTCC would connect LCPD to public cameras, allowing them to monitor various areas in real time. This surveillance capability enables law enforcement to respond swiftly to incidents as they unfold.
  2. Enhanced Information for Officers: When officers arrive at a scene, the RTCC provides them with critical information they might not otherwise have access to. This data can aid in investigations, improve situational awareness, and enhance officer safety.

The rise of Real Time Crime Centers are RTCC's originates in large urban cities and the practice has begun trickling down to smaller and more rural cities with limited police resources.

In the 1990's, London built the Ring of Steel—a network of concrete barriers, checkpoints, and thousands of video cameras around the historic City of London—after bombings by the Irish Republican Army. The idea was to monitor everyone entering and leaving the Square Mile, what the The New York Times later called “fortress urbanism.”

Wired reports that after the September 11, 2001, attacks, city planners looking to defend New York from terrorism turned to London and fortress urbanism for inspiration. Fusion centers, where US law enforcement agencies share intelligence at a federal level to be analyzed and build a bigger picture of crime, had been around for a few years. But officials began asking, what if fusion centers could be localized? What if local law enforcement could analyze and gather masses of intelligence from one city?

In 2005, they answered with the first “real-time crime center” (RTCC), a sprawling network of CCTV and automatic license plate readers (ALPR) linked to a central hub in the New York Police Department headquarters costing $11 million. Since then, from Miami to Seattle, RTCCs have steadily expanded across the US. The Atlas of Surveillance, a project from the digital rights nonprofit the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which monitors police surveillance technology, has counted 148 RTCCs nationwide—and that number is rising.

The mission of an RTCC is to centralize a broad range of current and evolving technologies, coordinate sworn and non-sworn human resources, and direct the attention of both to high-crime areas, active crimes in progress, high-profile or highly recidivistic offenders, and large-scale public events that may require law enforcement presence or response, according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most evidence for RTCC effectiveness, however, is anecdotal, and there is a real lack of studies into how effective they really are police departments argue they do work.

An effective real time crime center relies on the integration of a multitude of technologies to provide comprehensive monitoring and rapid response capabilities. Unlike traditional policing, which is very reactive in nature, RTCCs take a more proactive approach and are helping law enforcement agencies do more with less. This is extremely important given the lack of human resources and the increased need to be more strategic and efficient with the resources they have. While structures vary across agencies, RTCCs allow cities to fully leverage technologies for more effective, efficient policing.

In many U.S. cities, RTCCs are providing police departments with game-changing crime-fighting capabilities. For example, after unveiling its RTCC in 2021 Newport News, VA, saw an immediate boost in solving crimes. Most notably, the city was able to capture homicides on video, as well as quickly solve a series of carjacking cases.

According to Police Magazine: RTCCs also help police gather evidence and solve cases faster. In one incident in Memphis, a shooting occurred at a community basketball court. When police arrived, the suspects fled in different directions. Officers detained as many people as possible. Later, RTCC detectives reviewed the video data and identified the shooter—who was already in police custody. Although no witnesses had pointed out the shooter, the video evidence allowed police to apprehend the culprit.

The Jackson (MS) Police Department has seen similar benefits since building an RTCC in 2019, part of a broader effort that included deploying 100 cameras and 271 body cameras. Officers and analysts can view street and body camera footage to monitor crowds at parades and other events. During pursuits, the cameras provide extra surveillance, allowing officers to identify suspects or witnesses to help solve crimes.

As the landscape of law enforcement evolves tools utilized in large urban areas such as London, New York or San Francisco become more of a consideration for police departments and communities that are smaller such as Las Cruces or possibly even a town such as Alamogordo New Mexico in its city center. As the centers proliferate so does best practices and affordability. As these centers become more common, their role will be pivotal in maximizing limited resources and driving real-time, data-informed decisions for safer communities and Las Cruces's consideration makes good sense to provide a safer community.

Should Alamogordo consider a similar use for the over $300,000 in tax receipts from cannabis sales that is funnelling into its coffers? With the continued rise in crime especially from the problem of vagrancy seen in the city center consideration should be given for police cameras, better lighting and more surveillance of the area.

Reporting by Mica Maynard

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