New cameras a first step toward next-level crime prevention at UMMC, police say
Published on Monday, February 13, 2023
By: Danny Barrett Jr., email@example.com
Photos By: Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Communications
UMMC Police and Public Safety Department officers have a few extra pairs of eyes helping them keep employees, students, patients, visitors, and in many cases, their vehicles, safe.
Installed this semester in places where people park and walk in the densest numbers are 24 new security cameras that will phase out older, larger ones in place for at least 20 years.
Their solar-powered lenses are trained on vehicles and their license plates and are expected to make an immediate dent in vehicle-related crime, among the most often-reported to UMMC Police in 2022. Each possesses the kind of connectivity that will help arrest thieves, burglars and potentially more serious offenders.
“Say, for example, if your car is in a hit-and-run accident inside a parking garage, we’re able to then ask you what time you got here and what time you left, then eventually identify the vehicle that hit your car,” said Joshua Bromen, deputy chief of UMMC Police.
Each new camera is connected to the National Crime Information Center database, which provides information that helps law enforcement track plates of vehicles reported stolen or with switched or stolen plates, as well as missing/endangered people reports. Older cameras in use in the university’s 1,200-piece inventory of cameras are only closed-circuit TV capable and don’t have software to monitor vehicle license plates.
“With the new cameras, we’re able to go back and look and see if any tags have been entered into NCIC and if they’ve been here at UMMC in a certain time period,” Bromen said. “And if you’re only able to tell us that a red car hit your car in one of the parking garages or if they had a ladder in the back of their truck, we can go in and search for a red car or search and see all trucks that have ladders in the back at that moment. These cameras help us build an intelligence network that helps us identify who the person is who might have hit your car.
“With the current system, it’s all ‘enclosed’, meaning there’s no intelligence component to them,” he said. “If you tell us it was a red car that hit your car, someone has to go back and sift through minute-by-minute every part of it.”
Those examples are part of a trend with vehicle crimes in metro Jackson that UMMC police have observed when assisting neighboring law enforcement agencies, he said.
“What’s happening in Mississippi and in the Jackson area is someone will steal a tag from the parking lot of a retail store from a vehicle that might look like their own vehicle,” Bromen said. “Most people don’t look at their tags every day, so it might be 3-5 days before they realize their real tag’s not on their car. During that time, someone has driven around in the car and committed burglary, auto thefts and other crimes.”
Hundreds of employees and students park daily in the lots around Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, perhaps the largest area where new camera eyes are in place.
Dr. Joshua Mann, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and director of the Office of Well Being, is among those making the long walk to save money compared to using paid lots on campus and work in some physical fitness into his day.
“Ensuring UMMC is a safe place to work, learn, and receive care is of the utmost importance to all of us,” Mann said. “As someone who parks in the stadium lot every day, I’m thrilled to have the new security cameras there.”
New technology in policing UMMC’s 164-acre footprint in Jackson is but one part of a larger effort to be a key cog for cooperation with neighboring law enforcement agencies in crime prevention. Another part is coming from a renewed push to seek grant funds to pay for updated daily operations, such as evidence processing and storage, which is expected to get an upgrade from a recent $160,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bromen said. Such upgrades are required as the department seeks full accreditation with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, he said.
“We’re looking at a lot of grant opportunities so we can work together with jurisdictions like the VA police, JPD, the Jackson public school police, Capitol police, JSU police and Hinds County SO,” he said.
Bromen said UMMC PD is aware that some may have concerns regarding these types of technology. The department has strict policies and procedures for accessing and sharing personal information, including that of motor vehicles, he said, and invites anyone in the community with concerns to reach out to the department.
Crime totals for 2022 Bromen shared with supervisors and department heads this month showed simple assault against employees, simple assault in general and vehicle burglary were the most consistently reported crimes during the year.
Broken out, there were 51 reports of simple assault against employees, 27 reports of vehicle burglary, 26 reports of misdemeanor theft, 20 reports of simple assault, 16 reports of felony theft, eight reported drug offenses, seven weapon offenses, two reports of business burglary and one report each of strong-arm robbery, sexual assault and aggravated domestic assault.
“We traditionally see the highest numbers in the ED and psychiatric floors,” he said. “One of the reasons is simply the volume of patients and disorders that come through these areas.
“I encourage managers I meet with each month that if this occurs and we’re able to pursue charges, we really need victims of these reported crimes to follow through,” he said. “We’ll hold their hand through the process. Without accountability, there is no change in that kind of behavior.”
Bromen expects the new cameras to keep reports of the most commonly reported crimes to a minimum, given the size and traffic at UMMC and the daily challenges of crime fighting in Jackson.
“You just look at the volume of people we run through here each year and the scale we operate on,” he said. “We have 10,000 employees and about 70,000 people through the emergency department each year. We know there’s lot of room for improvement, but with technology like this in place and quality training with our officers, we can get to a point where our customers can say, ‘Hey, our police department here is doing a better job.’ “
Employees and community members are encouraged to visit UMMC PD website to access the daily crime log and map listing all crimes reported on the property.