Law enforcement is increasing its video surveillance footprint across the largest city in western Massachusetts as preparations continue for a large influx of daily visitors.
The Springfield Police Department’s Real-Time Analysis Center is now connected to 250 cameras located in and around Union Station. Crime analysts can look at any of the cameras live or review recordings going back a week to help investigators solve crimes or assist officers responding to anything from potential threats to bags left unattended.
"The technology of real-time crime analysis allows our Springfield Police Department to shift deployments proactively," said Mayor Domenic Sarno. He and police officials held a news conference at Union Station Monday to publicize the new video surveillance.
This is the latest public safety improvement in the city’s metro center in advance of the opening on August 24th of the MGM casino. A new police substation has opened downtown that is the home base for a new 41-member metro police unit. On Friday, the city began installing kiosks where officers will be stationed along Main Street between Union Station and the casino.
"We have one time to make sure we do this right with thousands and thousands of people coming here to the city of Springfield we want to send the message that it is a clean, safe city," said Sarno.
It is projected that an additional 20,000 people a day will be in downtown Springfield after the casino opens, many of them traveling through Union Station on buses or trains. A new rail line between New Haven and Springfield opened in June with a dozen roundtrip trains a day.
Springfield Police Deputy Chief William Cochrane said giving crime analysts access to the cameras at Union Station adds a layer of safety to the region’s largest transportation hub.
"We are doing everything we can to leverage technology to provide us with more eyes," said Cochrane. " It is just a huge advantage for us."
The department now has access to more than 300 cameras, including about 50 city-owned traffic cameras. There are plans to access cameras positioned on the streets around the MGM casino, at the Springfield public schools, and a local chain of gas station convenience stores.
Springfield Police say the crime analysis center is unique in its ability to provide real-time information to officers as they are being dispatched to a 9-1-1 call. Cochrane said facial recognition software is not being used and analysts are not randomly monitoring camera feeds.
Young runaways frequently end up at bus or train stations where they are targeted by people looking to recruit them for prostitution or slave labor.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal credited the anti-human trafficking advocacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph with inspiring the state-of-the-art surveillance at Union Station
"The Sisters indicated to me they wanted to meet with the mayor and they did," explained Neal. " I think they helped to insipre the idea of these 250 cameras offering real-time analysis to the Springfield Police Department. It is pretty remarkable."
The 250 cameras were installed as part of the $95 million restoration of Union Station that was completed last year.