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Some Knoxville City Council members express concerns about proposed Real Time Crime Center

Councilwoman Seema Singh said she was concerned about how the network of cameras could affect privacy and voted against establishing the real-time crime center.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It was still not clear Tuesday what kind of information the Knoxville Police Department could collect with a new Real Time Crime Center. The center would establish a network of new cameras watching several nooks and crannies of the city.

Proponents said the cameras would be placed in high-traffic public areas like Market Square and World's Fair Park. They said they could include up to 15 new cameras across Knoxville. However, they could also be put in places where unhoused people gather, under bridges and in other corners of the city.

"You know, places where people don't feel safe," Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon previously said.

A councilwoman who voted against establishing the center said she was concerned about how it could threaten privacy rights. 

"I understand the intent behind it is to be able to solve crimes, but this technology increases rapidly every day," Councilwoman Seema Singh said.

The new cameras would feed footage directly to the Real Time Crime Center, which would be located in the new Public Safety Complex, once it is completed. Supporters of the center said it may be able to speed up response times and help investigators as they look into different reported crimes.

It is estimated to cost about $1.5 million and last week, city council approved a contract to hire an architectural firm, McCarty Holsaple McCarty, to design it.

Opponents of the program said they were upset over a lack of transparency in the process to establish it. On social media, Councilwoman Amelia Parker said she was "frustrated and disgusted" with how it was being established in Knoxville.

A similar program was established in Chattanooga — the Real Time Intelligence Center. That system included mobile cameras that could be moved to different parts of the city.

"There are also a lot of things that were legal a few days ago, a few months ago, that are in question now. Like which bathroom kids are going to be using, or homelessness," said Singh. "And I don't want it to be used against people for those purposes."

As the project moves forward, Knoxville City Council is expected to continue discussing whether the crime center would be too intrusive, or if it would have a substantial impact on crime. 

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