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

DeKalb police could get access to license plate readers in neighborhoods

The DeKalb County Police Department is hoping to add more private cameras to its crime-fighting toolkit. 

Officers could soon gain access to devices that automatically log the license plate numbers of cars in dozens of communities across the county. The county commission is set to vote Tuesday on the 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. 

Under the agreement with DeKalb, police would get access to the license plate data for the communities that choose to connect with the department and take part in the partnership. Investigators would use the systems when they looking to solve a crime in the area, officials said. It would come at no cost to the county.

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

An example of what kind of data the license plate readers can gather.
Photo: Flock Safety

During a committee meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson initially expressed concerns that police having access to the data could present a privacy concern for everyday drivers.

But interim DeKalb County police Chief Joseph “Jack” Lumpkin said the police department would only use the systems when it is looking to solve a specific crime in a certain area.

“We’re not looking to search and determine where people are legitimately moving back and forth,” Lumpkin said.


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The agreement unanimously passed the county’s Employee Relations and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

It is somewhat similar to the police department’s agreement 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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In other news:

DeKalb County is the first in Metro Atlanta to officially partner with the Equal Justice Initiative in recognizing the lynchings that took place in the county. The NAACP is leading an effort to organize a week of events in September that are book-ended by the unveiling of two lynching markers, an EJI lynching monument is also in the works. Video by RYON HORNE and TIA MITCHELL

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