Tupelo officials eyeing real-time city surveillance software

Sep. 27—TUPELO — Tupelo leaders are considering the purchase of a law enforcement tool police officials claim will be a "game changer" — software that would link city, business and residential security cameras into a citywide surveillance network.

On Monday, city officials heard a proposal from an Atlanta-based security software firm Fusus Company about software that would link city, school and business security cameras into one continuous web-based network. Fusus Public Safety Advisor Chris Taylor told City Council members the technology would save the city money and make the city safer and law enforcement more efficient.

"(The software) saves you a ton of man-hours in investigations," Taylor said.

Taylor likened the program to television depictions of crime scene investigators with walls of continuous security monitors. The difference, he said, is that officers can access the software through a desktop computer, in-car laptop or phone. He also noted recordings collected from the software are admissible in court.

Along with city-owned camera systems, business owners could opt into allowing police access to cameras on their properties. City residents can do likewise with exterior security cameras at their homes.

Taylor said the program would include a link on the city's website to send embedded links of security footage to the department. In case of an emergency, Taylor said instead of knocking on doors asking for surrounding security footage, an officer can see what cameras are registered and send a mass email to owners.

The program uses Google Maps to display all cameras in an area. Officers can survey live feeds or use search inquiries to find specific key items — bicycles, cars, etc. — within a specified radius. Taylor also boasted functionality that allows individuals to click a big red button on the program's app for emergencies that would notify everyone on the system and spark a live feed directly from the individual's phone. He said it was perfect for schools in the event of an active shooter.

TPD compliance and technology Captain Doug Mansell said he had not directly asked if the Tupelo School District wanted to be involved in such a system but noted that officials from the district joined the previous demonstration from Taylor. Mansell also said he planned to approach the school before the topic came before the board again.

Mayor Todd Jordan told the council he was in favor of purchasing the software, noting that the idea came about after a recent visit to Starkville's police department with Police Chief John Quaka.

"When we looked at other towns, we saw they were way ahead of us as far as technology and cameras," Jordan said. "We put a couple hundred thousand in cameras each year ... and we don't spend that much."

Board President and Ward 2 Councilman Lynn Bryan asked how much the software would cost. Depending on the number of cameras city officials want included in the network, plans range from $75,000 to $125,000 annually.

TPD Spokesperson Major Chuck McDougald told the council he believed it was a "game changer."

"If we can know what we are getting into before, the officers responding can make better plans, the mid-level supervisor can make better plans, and the bosses can make better plans," he said.

When asked about the strength of the software and potential for cybersecurity breaches, Taylor told the Daily Journal that there was robust encryption and the program monitors log in IP addresses and accounts.

The next step following the meeting, Bryan said, would be for police and administration officials to deliberate and bring a proposal before the council.