How Glendale PD is using real-time intelligence to solve crimes and keep the public safe
For law enforcement, public/private partnerships add to coverage and efficiency
Sponsored by Motorola Solutions
By Katja Ridderbusch for Police1 BrandFocus
On a warm spring evening last year, four men with ski masks and guns walked into a jewelry store near a popular mall in Glendale, Arizona, nine miles northwest of Phoenix. The armed robbers zip-tied nine hostages and jammed jewelry worth about $1.5 million into bags and pillowcases.
As they left the store, they split up in different directions. One threw a bag with stolen jewelry into a bush, then changed out of his hoodie into a new shirt and slowly walked away from the scene. What he and his fellow robbers didn’t know: Police had their eyes on them all along, watching the scheme as it unfolded using traffic and security cameras. They quickly took the four men into custody.
What brought the big-money heist to a swift and successful resolution wasn’t the result of a tip or clairvoyance but a cutting-edge technology platform: Glendale Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center (RTCC).
Having an RTCC saved the agency time and money for an investigation that could have been long and involved, said Colby Brandt, assistant chief of Glendale PD. It prevented the robbers from committing crimes in other cities. Also, “using real-time technology helps victims get closure much faster,” he added.
An RTCC is a central hub where law enforcement personnel can quickly access and analyze a wide range of data to help them respond to incidents and prevent crimes. Also referred to as real-time operations centers, RTCCs gather intelligence from multiple sources – including 911, video, radio, computer-aided dispatch (CAD), license plate recognition (LPR) , records management systems and GPS mapping – and integrate the available information into one information ecosystem.
“As similar to the idea of a fusion center, RTCCs share a foundation of a data-driven public safety approach”, said David Wilson, a 32-year law enforcement veteran and Industry Specialist at Motorola Solutions. “They are designed to collect data and bring it together in real-time so an agency can make informed decisions about an incident from the moment it occurs.”
Motorola Solutions is a leading provider of public safety technology, including CommandCentral Aware, which is the real-time intelligence integration software at the core of a real-time crime center. Agencies using CommandCentral Aware also can leverage a variety of critical data inputs to unify 9-1-1 calls, CAD incidents, vehicles, radios, cameras, sensors and more on a single map as well as layer traffic, weather, custom maps and floor plans.
Having an RTCC has multiple benefits, noted Wilson, who retired as assistant chief of police of the Ventura Police Department in Southern California after 32 years of service. More real-time information instantly available leads to faster response times to calls and improves the safety of officers and the public.
For example, “it makes a huge difference for patrol officers to know before they arrive on a scene whether there are two people fighting or 10, or how public safety agencies can be alerted and see in real time as a critical situation is unfolding, such as an armed intruder on a school campus,“ Wilson said.
Integrated intelligence technology also helps agencies mitigate budget cuts and dwindling staffing levels. “If data helps you catch a criminal before they flee the scene, you save hundreds of hours of investigative time,” he said. “It makes the department’s response much more efficient.”
And it’s not just about crime, he added. Real-time technology holds benefits for all public safety, including fire and EMS.
Across the country, more and more public safety agencies are investing in RTCCs. Agencies such as police departments in Detroit and Yonkers as well as Collier and Broward County sheriff’s offices in Florida are using Motorola Solutions’ real-time platform.
While the CommandCentral Aware software allows agencies to seamlessly integrate existing third-party systems, Motorola Solutions stands out because “we offer all the technology, from emergency call handling and dispatch, radios to traffic cameras, license plate recognition and drones,” said Wilson.
It’s a one-stop-shop concept that constantly adjusts its solutions to the needs of its users. “Still, for even the best technology to be effective, you have to have a vision, and you have to train your people on how to work it,” said Wilson, adding that Glendale PD excelled at both.
Glendale, with 600 total employees, including 435 sworn officers, has become a poster agency for building and running a state-of-the-art real-time crime center based on the Motorola Solutions platform. Each week, several groups of visitors from around the world tour Glendale’s RTCC.
In February 2023, the department put its real-time crime center to a high-profile test when 67,000 fans flocked to Glendale’s State Farm Stadium, home of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, for the Super Bowl. The biggest sports event of the year ended without incident, thanks in part to Glendale PD’s real-time response capabilities.
But the journey was not without hurdles, recalled Brandt, a 26-year law enforcement veteran who was tasked with building the real-time crime center at Glendale PD. With a deep commitment to community policing and an open mind for pioneering technologies, the agency went on exploratory missions to visit some larger agencies already using Motorola Solutions’ real-time crime technology, including Detroit, which put a heavy focus on public/private partnerships when launching its RTCC.
“Our initial goal was to increase situational awareness and safety for our officers and the public and also improve efficiencies in our patrol division,” said Brandt.
But in 2016, there weren’t many agencies to look at for experience, best practices and advice. Information wasn’t readily available, and the concept wasn’t proven yet.
Brandt said the biggest challenge in building the center was getting the buy-in from city officials to fund and staff the crime center. “But once they saw and understood what we were trying to do, it all fell into place.”
There has been some skepticism and pushback due to privacy concerns, said Brandt, especially at school and hospital systems. But for the most part, people understand the balancing act between privacy protection and preparedness planning.
It also helped that Glendale PD had a strong partner from the beginning within the business community. Circle K, a Tempe, Arizona-based chain of convenience stores, agreed to integrate the security cameras of all its 20 Glendale stores into the RTCC platform.
“The partnership with Circle K was instrumental in pushing the idea of public/private partnerships, which ties into our philosophy of community policing,” said Brandt.
When Glendale officially launched its RTCC in 2019, the center started with just a few hundred cameras, mainly city-owned traffic cameras and a few cameras privately owned by Circle K.
Today, many more institutions and businesses have joined Glendale’s City Watch program, including malls, hospitals, as well as sports and entertainment venues. A total of 2,000 cameras are integrated, and about half of them are privately owned.
In addition to video, Glendale’s RTCC integrates feeds from CAD, radio, license plate recognition and mapping technology. The department recently added drones.
Officers at Glendale PD have embraced the concept. “Intelligence-led policing is the future,” said Sgt. Jonathan Clubb, who assisted Brandt when the project was still in the pilot phase. He now oversees the RTCC, which is staffed with two other sworn officers and three civilians, including one professional crime analyst.
His advice to agencies thinking about implementing a RTCC is to start small and tailor the center to their needs, a concept supported by Motorola Solutions’ scalable software.
“But make sure to build in room for growth,” said Clubb, “because I can almost guarantee you the growth is going to be exponential.”
For more information, visit www.motorolasolutions.com.
About the author
Katja Ridderbusch is an Atlanta-based journalist who reports about health care and law enforcement. Her work has appeared in "U.S. News & World Report," "Time," "Kaiser Health News," the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" and NPR.