WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — You see it on your favorite crime-fighting television show. It's the nerve center where information, pictures and video seamlessly blend into a snapshot of a crime in progress, or a suspect law enforcement can track. I recently got a look inside the real-life version of such a place.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office calls it the Real Time Crime Center.
Camera operators, dispatchers and intelligence analysts pore over video and information feeds day and night. They are eyes and ears for deputies on patrol.
"When a deputy is going to a call, he's bombarded with all kinds of information," Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said.
That is where the RTCC comes in.
"So when the deputy gets there, he knows everything that's confronting him -- where the bad guys are, which way they went, all the information necessary to solve this crime," Bradshaw said of the RTCC's resources.
Maj. Paul Vrchota oversees the RTCC. He told me more than 350 PBSO cameras are set up across the county.
"There's no way we could afford to place an additional 350 deputies on the street 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.
The RTCC is part of the answer to those manpower constraints.
Vrchota added that the RTCC will "give deputies a heightened situational awareness to allow them to make better decisions in real time."
The center is seen as an essential crime-fighting tool in today's connected world.
"What you're looking at here is our ability to pull up a camera and see the crime in progress, give the deputies all the information they need to respond to that call," Bradshaw said.
The sheriff's office is quick to note that its owned-and-operated cameras are only placed in public areas.
"We're not concerned about looking in people's windows or into people's backyards or in private areas around private property," Vrchota said.
Many residents and businesses voluntarily partner with the PBSO, allowing it to tie into their external home cameras or business site cameras.
"It is really hard to find a place in Palm Beach County anymore where you are not on camera," Vrchota said.
They are high-tech crime-fighting tools and he can't imagine it any other way.
"Not in the 21st Century," Vrchota said. "It's a force multiplier that was just a figment of my imagination 25 to 30 years ago."