The Cobb County Commission has voted to install 26 license plate readers at 13 county parks.
Photo: Casey Sykes/Casey Sykes
Photo: Casey Sykes/Casey Sykes

License plate readers coming to 13 Cobb County parks

More than two dozen license plate readers coming to Cobb County parks will help deter crime, police say.

County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 5-0 to approve a contract with Flock Group, Inc. to install 26 solar powered automatic license plate readers at 13 county parks.

The $182,000 proposal includes two cameras at each of the following locations: Lost Mountain Park, Oregon Park, Fair Oaks Park, East Cobb Park, Terrell Mill Park, Fullers Park, Skip Wells Park, Noonday Creek Park, Wallace Park, Hurt Road Park, South Cobb Campus, Tramore Park (on the north side) and Wild Horse Creek Park. The project will be funded using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funding approved by voters.

Flock will also provide four years of cloud hosting, cellular service and software upgrades for new features. The readers will record the date and time, license plate information and characteristics of cars entering and leaving parks. Cobb officers are notified when a scanned plate is from a vehicle reported as stolen, or the plate itself has been stolen or if there’s a warrant out for a driver’s arrest.

The system will tie directly into the Cobb County Police Department’s existing Flock camera system. Any information obtained from the readers will be transmitted directly to the police department. No parks employee or county department will have access to that information, the county said.

County spokesman Ross Cavitt said Cobb County police reached out to the parks department earlier this year after investigating 14 incidents of smash-and-grab burglaries at parks facilities. Cobb police thought the Flock readers “would be a deterrent,” and used a list of 911 calls from the parks to determine which areas needed them, Cavitt said.

“It’s been a cooperative effort all along,” he said.

READMeet the new neighborhood watch: License-plate reading cameras

Cavitt said he doesn’t believe there has been any discussion about expanding the program “at this time.”

At least one other Cobb County law enforcement agency — Marietta — uses Flock’s automatic license plate readers. Five readers were installed in late 2017 around the city, and police department spokesman Chuck McPhilamy said in April that it plans to spend about $20,000 to purchase 10 more readers.

Flock’s contract originally came before county commissioners in August, but was tabled when Commissioner Bob Ott raised concerns about privacy. Ott said he wanted Flock to include details in its contract spelling out how it will secure the private data transmitted when a reader scans a license plate. Once he felt that issue was addressed, Ott said he was ready to back the proposal.

Ott said he believed the cameras will give Cobb police the ability to apprehend perpetrators of criminal incidents occurring in parks. When asked if he would like to see the readers installed at other areas around the county, Ott said that should be something he and his fellow commissioners discuss.

“I’m not interested in having a society where everything is being filmed,” he said.

Commissioner Jo Ann Birrell said she requested the county add Noonday Creek Park to the list due its maintenance shed suffering thousands of dollars worth of damage by someone who ignited fireworks a few years ago.

“I just think it’s a good move for citizens who are using our parks and a tool to help police,” she said.

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