If they’re awarded funds from a new, state-level grant, local law enforcement could establish a real-time crime intelligence data center in Blount County.
The grant would strengthen local agencies in several ways, Alcoa Police Chief David Carswell told The Daily Times. In essence, Carswell said, it would create “a center for data in the form of video.”
A successful application would mean that the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, Maryville and Alcoa Police Departments and Blount County Emergency Communications District receive over $1.1 million for the technology and hardware needed to support the center.
County commissioners gave their unanimous approval Thursday, Jan. 19, to an agreement between the cities and the county to apply for the state of Tennessee’s Office of Criminal Justice Programs’ Violent Crime Intervention Fund.
VCIF offers successful law enforcement agencies throughout the state access to a considerable amount of funding. Governor Bill Lee announced the creation of the $100 million fund in 2022 and urged Tennessee law enforcement agencies to apply for grants.
A worksheet filed by BCSO and published on the county commission’s website says that the funding would buy “equipment and Technology to be used collaboratively (Equipment, Gear, Personnel, etc.) between DTF, Maryville, and Alcoa to address regionally specific needs to combat violent crime.”
DTF — the 5th Judicial Drug Task Force —includes personnel from MPD, APD and BCSO in its ranks.
The agreement between the cities and the counties provides a dollar breakdown for the project, with software costs totaling $292,000 for the life of the grant, a video wall valued at $250,000, 30 cameras at $540,000 and feed video at $50,400.
The worksheet also specifies that the possible grant amount could be as much as $2 million.
Carswell explained that if the center were functioning and someone committed a violent crime in a business, for instance, police could view a real-time feed monitoring the situation. If law enforcement needed to call up a prior date, they could also use information from the feeds.
“Video would be stored and accessible, when and where needed,” he said. “There are agencies around the country that have implemented a version of this.”
Some of the inspiration for the center in Blount County comes from what law enforcement have done in Chattanooga, according to Carswell.
The grant is meant to last until the end of fiscal year 2025.
A different type of VCIF grant — based on law enforcement agency and population size —would also provide local police with equipment including ballistic vests, which expire every five years, as well as folding shields and rifle plates, among other equipment.
The grant would also be used to build a mobile application for BCSO. The app is essentially a way of expanding communications between the community and police, Angelie Shankle said. It wouldn’t replace a standard report or a call to 911, but would allow members of the public to provide law enforcement with tips related to crimes.
Shankle, BCSO’s finance director, said that if Blount County agencies got funding for the app, it would work similarly to others currently in place around the state. Both Anderson and Sumner Counties have dedicated sheriff’s apps that allow two-way communication between police and private citizens.
“It could be deployed everywhere in the county,” Shankle said.