NEWS

Police, mayor favor license plate reading cameras

ALEX MALM
Posted 2/23/22

The City Council was expected to approve last night a Police Department proposal to lease ten Flock Safety Automatic License Plate Readers. 

Warwick wouldn’t be the first city in the …

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NEWS

Police, mayor favor license plate reading cameras

Posted

The City Council was expected to approve last night a Police Department proposal to lease ten Flock Safety Automatic License Plate Readers. 

Warwick wouldn’t be the first city in the state to install the Flock system. According to Col. Bradford Connor there are approximately 60 other Flock cameras in Woonsocket, Cranston and Pawtucket. He said that other law enforcement agencies are also planning on using the cameras in 2022. 

“The Flock Safety ALPR is not your traditional live feed camera, rather it is a device that records and stores data. The technology captures still photographs of license plates and vehicle characteristics as they travel on public roads,” Connor explained in a memo to the Council. “The cameras do not independently record people or faces but can be used to solve and reduce violent and property crimes. The cameras will never be used for traffic enforcement, as they cannot track speed or identify unregistered or uninsured vehicles. They capture objective evidence in plain sight, such as license plates, and can never be used for facial recognition.”

In the memo to the Council Connor said that while the cameras “do not result in unwarranted invasion of one’s privacy, they capture more than just license plates. 

“They allow investigators to search footage by vehicle type, make, color and other unique attributes; identify the state of a license plate; and capture temporary plates, paper plates, and vehicles without plates,” the memo reads. “ They are able to cover two lanes of traffic and vehicles traveling up to 100 mph. Investigators are also able to input vehicle data into the system and receive a ‘HIT’ and alert within seconds of a camera detecting that vehicle. The cities of Cranston and Pawtucket have shared their data and success stories with us. In the short time that they have used Flock Safety they have seen arrests increase significantly and have had a record number of recovered stolen property. Just as important, it has been used to locate missing and endangered people.”

In a statement in advance to the meeting Council President Steve McAllister said “I had a meeting with Col. Connor, the Mayor and Chairman Howe.  Col. Connor walked us through the program and gave us examples of how these cameras have benefited other communities.  This technology looks at License Plates and Vehicles.”

“It does not collect data for facial recognition, people, gender or race.  It would give Warwick Police real time information on vehicles that may have been used in a crime.  Keeping Warwick residents safe is a top priority and if this technology can help with that in a responsible way, I am supportive.” 

Mayor Frank Picozzi said he is supportive of the cameras calling it a “great law enforcement tool.” 

Howe also said that he is supportive of the cameras.

“I think it’s a good program because it’s not a ticket program it’s proactive that’s the way I see it,” said Howe. “It’s a proactive program that just ensures community safety. It’s just another level of community safety.”

Connor noted that the system “focuses on privacy and security and is built on a foundation of public trust and transparency.”

“All data is encrypted and stored on a AWS GovCloud for maximum security compliance. Data is permanently and automatically deleted after a 30 day period and all footage is never shared or sold to 3rd parties,” said Connor. “Use of the system by license holders will be strictly governed by department policy and the system allows for audits to ensure proper use. Furthermore, the system comes with a transparency portal which is intended to promote the ethical use of the technology. This portal is a public facing dashboard which can be shared via the department’s social media or website which allows us to share policies, usage and public safety outcomes related to the ALPRs.” 

Connor said that the Department looked at what they could afford to allocate towards the cameras which is how they decided on the 10. He said that the cameras would be paid out of the federal asset forfeiture account. 

“We're confident that the system is going to be very productive,” said Connor. 

According to Connor the 10 cameras will cost $52,500, with $27,500 being the cost in year one and $25,000 in year two. After the two years the police department will be able to renew the lease if they decide to. The funds will come from their federal asset forfeiture account. 

Connor explained that if the Department is involved with a federal criminal case and part of the conviction involves assets being forfeited the local police department receives a certain amount of it. 

He said the department keeps the funds from asset forfeiture in a separate account to purchase things for investigative purposes.  Businesses

Connor said that aside from law enforcement businesses are also able to lease Flock cameras. 

“This system can also be purchased privately by local businesses which provides a huge benefit to law enforcement,” Connor wrote in a memo to the Council. “Through the sharing of our data and the access to privately owned cameras throughout the city we have the potential to double our coverage. Flock Safety, along with members of our police department have already begun to reach out to local businesses to gain interest and support for this program. Having businesses, particularly within our retail and commercial zones, fund their own cameras would allow for the city purchased cameras to be placed strategically throughout the city and cover more territory.” 

“The system isn’t solely for police departments,” said Connor. 

According to Connor no businesses located in Warwick have Flock cameras. 

At this point Connor said the department has been putting out feelers to businesses but no one has signed up yet. 

Connor said that no businesses are required to purchase the cameras however, if they are interested the Department will put the interested business in touch with representatives from Flock. 

“This is just an additional tool that we mentioned,” said Connor. 

If approved Connor said that Flock representatives would visit Warwick to determine where to install them. 

He said if all goes to plan they would likely have them installed by June.  Connor said that they don’t have any locations in mind yet for where to put the cameras. “I think it’s a good program because it’s not a ticket program it’s proactive that’s the way I see it. It’s a proactive program that just ensures community safety. It’s just another level of community safety.

cameras, Flock cameras, license plate readers

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