Oil boom fuels surveillance overhaul in Hobbs, N.M.

Aug. 18, 2015
City leverages its budget reserves to double down on video surveillance

Located in southeast New Mexico near the Texas border, the City of Hobbs is home to a population of about 45,000 people. Fueled by a boom in the oil and gas industries, the city has also experienced a tremendous amount of growth over the past seven years. With that growth, Hobbs has also enjoyed additional financial resources, which is one of the reasons why the city recently decided to overhaul their existing video surveillance infrastructure.

According to Hobbs City Manager J.J. Murphy, one of his goals when he was hired by the city three years ago was to take the disparate camera systems that existed within various departments and the school system and integrate them together. Including the school’s surveillance assets, Murphy said the city has close to 1,000 cameras.

“My intent was to collaborate with the schools and make sure all of our systems moving forward were going to be on the same network and all going to our intelligence center,” explained Murphy. “We had multiple, independent systems that didn’t talk to each other where the police would have to go out to various locations just to even get copies of footage. There was no one centralized data collection point.”  

In addition to enhancing the safety of students in schools and residents in public spaces, Murphy said they wanted to be able to quickly and efficiently provide police officers in the field with more information as they respond to calls for assistance.

“Having seen some of the national incidents involving active shooters, specifically in school environments, I wanted to give our officers better situational awareness and a tactical advantage,” added Murphy.

Both the city commission and police department were unified in their desire to invest in video technology, according to Murphy, as they realized it could serve as a force multiplier like it has done is so many other jurisdictions across the country. The biggest challenge would come on the technical side in streamlining the various systems together into a single, unified solution and also upgrading out of date technology.   

Although it took about a year to bring everything online, all of the city’s cameras have now been consolidated into a single monitoring facility know as EAGLE IC, short for Emergency Action General Law Enforcement Intelligence Center. Unlike municipal surveillance initiatives that have been criticized by privacy advocates in some pockets of the country, Murphy said that they have received a lot of support from the community in Hobbs.

“The community has rallied behind it and we have had community groups that have taken tours of our intelligence center,” he said. “We recently had an attempted murder where the assailant’s car was captured on some of our camera feeds and some of the other camera feeds in the community. With good police work, our officers were able to find his location, which was over 100 miles outside our community.”

Murphy said they hope to grow the system in the future and to incorporate cameras from the private sectors as a part of that effort.

“The current stage of our deployment only includes governmental agencies. We do have a partnership with the county sheriff’s office and the state police where they have access to our intelligence center. We have rooms setup where if there was an operation with our drug task force that they could go in there and utilize our camera system,” he added. “We have multiple public partners on this project. Eventually, we may also look to partner with some private entities. Our community passed a resolution to mandate that any housing project built with over 10 apartments is required to put in a surveillance system that feeds back to our command center. The first couple of projects are going to be built out this year and they will be our first private partners. “   

With the financial reserves Hobbs has been able to accumulate in recent years, Murphy said the city has allocated more funding to public safety, not just in terms of acquiring technology but also putting more officers on the streets.

“We’ve been able to use this oil boom to conserve over 40 percent budget reserves and, in the last three years, we’ve gone from 62 police officers to 98 officers so we’ve had a 40 percent increase in patrolmen,” said Murphy. “That has helped us see a 20 percent reduction in the overall crime. We are putting our fortunate budget reserves into improving the community’s public safety.”  

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Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief, SecurityInfoWatch.com

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of SecurityInfoWatch.com, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.