Garner, N.C. — The Garner Police Department is among several law enforcement agencies in the Triangle using automated license plate reading (ALPR) cameras to help determine if cars are stolen or wanted in a crime.
The Garner Town Council is set to consider a budget amendment at 7 p.m. Monday to add a total of 15 Flock Safety ALPR cameras in “strategic locations around town.”
The implementation cost is $39,375 with an annual recurring cost of $37,500. The initial contract term is two years with a renewal option for an additional two years. Town staff is recommending councilmembers approve the proposal.
In February, Garner police began using eight of the 15 Flock Safety ALPR cameras.
The ALPR network delivers real-time alerts to law enforcement when a vehicle with a license plate that has been reported as either stolen or linked to a crime passes a camera. The license plate readers can also alert officers if a vehicle is associated with an active Amber or Silver Alert.
Garner Police Lt. Kevan Anderson said within a day of installing the cameras on Feb. 9, police recovered two stolen vehicles. The have also helped solve other crimes.
“We had a break-in at a local park, and we were able to utilize that data to pinpoint the suspect vehicle and identify who the suspect was and obtain warrants,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the license plate readers will not be used for surveillance or traffic enforcement.
“Any time you’re utilizing technology and you’re the government, it’s going to scare some people, especially if they don’t know what it is,” Anderson said.
Garner Police Chief Lorie Smith also addressed potential privacy concerns.
“I understand some members of the community may have concerns surrounding privacy,” Smith said in a news release. “ALPR data is collected in public places and focuses only on license plates and vehicle characteristics.
“We are excited about this new technology and its ability to help us provide a safer community for our residents and visitors.”
Flock Safety spokesperson Holly Beilin says the company has strict privacy protections. All footage is deleted after 30 days.
“The data is never used for expired vehicle registrations, for traffic enforcement, immigration enforcement or anything like that,” Beilin said. “And more importantly, no facial recognition. It doesn’t exist in the cameras.”
Beilin said none of Flock Safety’s information is released to third parties.
Anderson said each camera can cover a width of 100 feet and capture a clear image of a license plate moving at up to 80 miles an hour.
“It’s a completely valid concern,” Beilin said of a camera’s ability to read a license plate from so far away.
Other law enforcement agencies using the Flock system include the Knightdale Police Department, Nash County Sheriff’s Office and the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office.
“From an investigative and proactive standpoint, we are excited to have another tool to assist us and other law enforcement agencies in being more efficient and significantly more accurate when combating crime,” said Nash County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brandon Medina in a news release.
Flock Safety cameras are used by 1,000 police departments in 40 different states, according to Beilin.