DeKalb allows police department to access private license plate readers

DeKalb police officers will soon tap into private license plate readers stationed in communities across the county.

The county commission voted 7-0 Tuesday to approve an agreement with Flock Safety, an Atlanta-based company that markets itself as a crime-solving tool for neighborhoods.

Communities can purchase one of Flock’s license plate readers for their area, using the device to log the license plate numbers of cars that pass by. They can read plates on cars going up to 75 mph, during both day and night and from up to 75 feet away, according to Flock’s website. 

The neighborhoods that have Flock cameras can now opt into the public-private partnership with the DeKalb County Police Department, at no cost to the county.

Police officials said investigators will use the cameras to investigate specific crimes, and not to monitor everyday drivers.

An example of what the solar-powered Flock cameras look like.
Photo: Flock Safety

“When a crime is reported we can then look to see if a particular vehicle was picked up in that area during that period of time,” interim DeKalb County police Chief Joseph “Jack” Lumpkin told the commission Tuesday. He clarified that communities can ultimately choose whether to share the data with the police department.

About 50 neighborhoods in DeKalb have a Flock camera, the police department previously estimated. They cost $2,000 each.

“It actually builds a digital, electronic neighborhood watch that the citizens actually control,” Lumpkin said.

The agreement is somewhat similar to the police department’s relationship with doorbell camera company Ring, which allows officers to access camera footage posted by homeowners. Investigators are able to monitor the security videos that residents voluntarily upload to the doorbell security system’s neighborhood portal. 

» RELATED: DeKalb approves partnership with Ring doorbell security system

In Marietta, the police department purchased five of their own Flock cameras and stationed them around the city. Officials said in April that a camera used during a trial run helped lead to a reduction in crime near Bells Ferry Road at Williams Drive. 

Crime rates dropped 34% between July 2018 to March of this year in the area where Marietta police installed the trial license plate reader, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. However, the department couldn’t immediately provide data on how many crimes the cameras had helped them solve.

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