Note: This story was updated on June 23 to correct the approval process for emergency purchases.
Following a deadly shooting on McCallie Avenue earlier this month that left three dead and 14 injured, members of the Chattanooga City Council have been informed of an emergency purchase of 11 additional police cameras.
Totaling $182,000 from supplier Convergint, the purchase made by the city administration will allow the city to replace six inoperable and obsolete cameras and hold five in reserve, reducing the time it takes to restore one when it fails.
Council Chairman Darrin Ledford, of East Brainerd, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press by phone Wednesday that the city's Real Time Intelligence Center system, an information nexus where officers can see live video from around the municipality, has been an effective deterrent against crime. He supported the purchase of additional reserve cameras.
"I run a business, and I have things in backup," Ledford said. "It just makes sense to me, and given ... supply chain issues and things we're all facing in our businesses, I think we should be proactive in making sure we have these tools at our disposal at any given time."
According to a purchase request submitted June 14, the Police Department's Real Time Intelligence Center has identified six Crime Eyes Camera units that were no longer functioning and beyond repair. The devices were more than 5 years old, and parts for the model aren't being manufactured.
The six devices were strategically placed in high-crime areas around the city, the request said, and at the time, no cameras were in place to monitor suspicious activity.
In the next few months, the city also intends to install 25 additional police cameras, building on a fleet of roughly 60 already deployed across Chattanooga.
"These cameras really play a huge role in helping to keep the public safe," Ellis Smith, the director of special projects in Mayor Tim Kelly's office, said by phone. "This is something that we wanted to expand because it's a good system."
Smith said the city made that $393,000 purchase in early May.
There are cases where police don't have witnesses or witnesses don't want to testify, Smith said. Having these cameras, he said, has enabled police to prevent crimes or gather evidence needed to secure convictions. They provide a live feed of parts of the city or can be rewound to review past incidents.
Some cameras have been in service since 2017 and are starting to reach the end of their lives. Officers will encounter issues with a camera around once a month, Smith said. The fix can be as simple as resetting the internet connection or checking the power, he said, but sometimes they need to be replaced.
Holdups in the supply chain can delay the manufacture of new cameras, he said, but the five reserve cameras the city has purchased will be available if police need to swiftly replace a device.
"These are complex machines," Smith said. "They have fans, they have cooling systems, these are things that are on 24 hours a day ... They're sitting out in the sun, the rain, the wind. There's birds, there's bugs. They're out there exposed to the elements."
Police have been gradually expanding the city's collection of cameras. In February 2017, Chattanooga police announced they would be installing 15 video cameras across the city in intentionally conspicuous white, rectangular boxes adorned with the department's badge. They installed 14 more a year later.
"This has proved to be very popular in a lot of neighborhoods," Smith said. "... We've got more requests in for camera locations than we have cameras, and so we're trying to be responsive to that."
Chattanooga Chief Financial Officer Brent Goldberg told the Times Free Press in an interview Tuesday the city will usually set aside a few hundred thousand dollars in its capital budget for camera replacements, but the emergency purchase goes beyond what it would normally buy in a given year.
"They roughly average about five years," he said about their lifespan, "so we constantly have to replace them, and every time we replace them, we usually get better technology ... We can see more, they're more reliable, better Wi-Fi, all that kind of stuff just as technology improves."
Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy told council members June 7 that a city camera at an intersection near the 2100 block of McCallie Avenue was malfunctioning at the time of the shooting June 5. It was not stalling the investigation, she said, and police have since made three arrests in connection with the case.
A Chattanooga police spokesperson said June 8 that Real Time Intelligence Center investigators caught and noted the malfunction May 21 during a daily inspection of cameras. Because EPB had a limited number of electricians available to perform the necessary work, there were logistical issues with repairing the device.
Shortly after 2:30 a.m. on June 5, police believe multiple shooters opened fire on McCallie Avenue in front of Mary's Bar & Grill. In addition to the gunfire, several people were injured as a car attempted to leave the scene. In all, three people were killed: Darian Hixson, 24, Myrakle Moss, 25, and Kevin Brown, 34. A total of 14 people were injured in the incident.
Police have since arrested three men in connection with the shooting. Garrian King, 28, was arrested June 9 and charged with possessing a firearm as a felon. Alexis Lewis, 36, was arrested June 13 and charged with criminal homicide, reckless endangerment and possession of a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. Rodney Harris was charged June 14 for possession of a firearm as a felon.