Cobb County accepts donation of additional license plate readers

Woodstock has approved an agreement with Flock so that the company’s license plate readers will alert police when a stolen or suspicious vehicle passes within camera range. PHOTO: Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Woodstock has approved an agreement with Flock so that the company’s license plate readers will alert police when a stolen or suspicious vehicle passes within camera range. PHOTO: Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Cobb County has increased the number of license plate readers in the county.

With no debate, county commissioners on Tuesday approved the donation of eight additional devices from two organizations.

A county spokesman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the eight donations brings the total number of county police license plate readers to 61. For security reasons, he declined to provide information about their locations.

Some are installed on utility poles while others are on mobile stations. The readers scan vehicle license plates of passing cars and notify police when they spot a plate from a stolen vehicle or a vehicle suspected of being used in a crime.

Automated license plate readers can be programed to notify private and public organizations of plates for a variety of reasons. Some cameras send out notifications to homeowner associations on vehicles registered to drivers who don’t live in a given community or to car repossession firms.

Cobb police had 45 license plate readers prior to Tuesday’s donation. The Vinings Village Homeowners Association, a nonprofit organization that represents Cobb’s unincorporated Vinings area, donated six stationary readers. The Cobb County Public Safety Foundation also gave county police two mobile devices.

Cobb police have said the system has helped cops and investigators immediately react to crimes and arrest suspects, recover stolen cars, and obtain evidence.

In 2019, figures provided by Cobb County and Atlanta-based Flock Safety, the brand name of the camera’s being donated, showed for the police zone that includes Six Flags, car break-ins fell by 64 percent, robberies by 52 percent and residential burglaries by 21 percent, according to an AJC article.

But privacy advocates have criticized the readers for the enormous amount of data they collect regarding where and when innocent people are at any given moment, and the storing that information for years. A 2019 Channel 2 Action News investigation found that the City of Atlanta, which at the time had 347 active devices collected data on 29,547,689 license plates in the month June of that year.

The cameras donated to Cobb were manufactured by Flock Safety, an Atlanta-based company that sells the technology across the country. The cameras cost roughly $2,500 new, according to Flock’s website.