The Ferndale city council in Michigan has recently approved a plan to install Flock Safety license plate readers around the city for a two-year pilot program using funds from seized drug forfeitures.
Under the new program, solar-powered, high-definition cameras will be placed at 16 high-traffic entry points to the city for 60 days.
After the trial period, data will be analyzed by police to determine the most effective areas, and eight cameras will be left in place. The cost for the first year, including installation, is $25,300, and the second year will cost $22,500.
According to Ferndale Police Department’s plan, the cameras will capture license plates and vehicle characteristics, not faces or people. The aim is to use the readers to identify stolen or wanted vehicles, stolen license plates and locating missing persons.
Police believe the cameras will help investigators generate leads and solve crimes.
“We have a proposed map. We are going to do entry points with high volume traffic to the city,” Ferndale Police Captain David Spellman told WXYZ Detroit.
According to Flock Safety’s website, they are a “public safety operating system that helps cities, businesses, schools and law enforcement in thousands of communities work together to stop crime, protect privacy and mitigate bias.”
The company also manufactures software to facilitate analysis of video evidence.
Several other law enforcement agencies have successfully implemented ALPR technology this year. For instance, Warren police reported solving rape, murder and violent crimes using Flock readers.
“We believe it’s game-changing technology. An eyewitness multiplier and enhancer,” Spellman said. “It’s going to allow our detectives to find investigative leads on vehicles quicker.”
However, there are concerns about the misuse of data and the surveillance of innocent people.
To address these concerns, the Ferndale police department has proposed a policy outlining how the cameras will be used. The policy prohibits the use of automated license plate reader technology for traffic enforcement, civil judgments and immigration laws, and states that the ALPR’s will not “contribute to the criminalization of poverty.”
In addition, police insist that only detectives will have access to the cameras and assured that they are not used to “prevent” crime.
Additionally, officers will not be allowed to access data from the readers for non-investigative purposes and the data will be password-protected.
The policy also states that data will be deleted 30 days from capture if not currently being used in an investigation.
The Michigan State Police (MSP) also plans to use license plate readers on some Metro Detroit freeways to help solve crimes such as road rage and shootings.
The American Civil Liberties Union proposed guidelines for law enforcement agencies that choose to implement the technology.
Ferndale police said the system is expected to be operational by June or July.
Ferndale is a city located in Oakland County, Michigan, within the Detroit Metro area.