OXFORD — A large screen at the front of a dark room showed surveillance footage Friday from locations around the city of Oxford.
Behind a glass wall facing the screen were several rows of computers, where law enforcement officers from numerous local, state and federal agencies can work side by side.
The room is the command center of the East Metro Area Crime Center, opened Friday by the city of Oxford to reduce the crime rate in Calhoun County and surrounding areas and more quickly solve the crimes that do happen.
Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said Friday at the center’s opening celebration that the Police Department plans over the next few months to give local banks the opportunity to connect their surveillance cameras to the screen.
“We won’t monitor those on a daily basis, but they will be preset so, if an alarm goes off, we can immediately pull up a live camera feed from that bank,” Partridge said. “We’ll be able to give live information to the officers who are responding.”
Partridge said the center also boasts a cyber crimes lab where phones and computers are examined by forensic experts.
In a room where shell casings are examined, Partridge said, police can enter those casings into a database to compare them with casings recovered from shootings across the country.
Partridge said the center will allow officers from 23 agencies, including agencies in Calhoun and surrounding counties, state and federal agencies, and some agencies in Jefferson County to work under the same roof to share information.
Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh said jurors often expect authorities to gather evidence like they see on television.
“A lot of times we have to offset that by saying, ‘It’s the CSI effect. Don’t expect to see that in court,’” McVeigh said. “This building will allow you to see that.”
Prior to its opening, Partridge said, Oxford police had operated a smaller version of the center in the department’s Special Operations Facility. Partridge said local crime has dropped 17 percent over the past nine months.
“That’s because of all the agencies working under one roof and being able to share that intel,” Partridge said. “Crime doesn’t know jurisdictional boundaries.”
Partridge said the center is the result of five years of planning by the Police Department and city officials.
“We’ve traveled across the country looking at different concepts and ways that different cities and agencies were doing things,” Partridge said. “We took what we liked, got rid of what we didn’t like and came up with the EMACC.”
Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade said a deputy had already been working for several months with an Oxford officer and FBI agents at the “mini-MACC.” Wade said he looks forward to seeing “more of the same” from deputies at the center.
“Having law enforcement officers communicate and work together is something that most citizens think already happens,” Wade said. “This is a major advancement to making that a reality.”
Jacksonville police Chief Marcus Wood said he wasn’t sure how often his department would have an officer at the center, but he planned for one to be there at least once a week.
“We do plan on having someone who can come in and stay for a day or a couple hours, whatever that might be,” Wood said.
Wood said his department has already been helped by borrowing technology from the “mini-MACC.”
“We have been able to use some of the portable camera technology that the MACC center has,” Wood said. “We’ve been able to deter some crimes just by having one of those units out in the city.”