Kettering OKs deal for license plate detection traffic cams despite criticism

Kettering has approved a measure to contract with Flock Group Inc., a company which touts a public safety system to help neighborhoods, businesses, and police to eliminate crime. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF

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Kettering has approved a measure to contract with Flock Group Inc., a company which touts a public safety system to help neighborhoods, businesses, and police to eliminate crime. NICK BLIZZARD/STAFF

The city of Kettering has approved contracting with a business to install automatic license plate detection cameras despite criticism of the technology.

Kettering City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to allow City Manager Mark Schwieterman to buy cameras from Flock Group Inc.

At-large Councilwoman Jyl Hall said officials have looked into the technology and she feels “satisfied our questions have been answered” while Councilman Bob Scott said he “fully supports” the move.

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Councilman Bruce Duke said the issue has been controversial in some communities. But he feels “very comfortable” the cameras will be used in a “reactive” way.

Kettering Police Chief Chip Protsman said personal use of the cameras will be a cause for termination and a crime.

The vote came after Kettering resident Sterling Abernathy told council he had several concerns about the Flock system, calling it “mass surveillance technology.”

Abernathy said the technology raises questions about privacy, civil rights and civil liberties.

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The agreement will have Flock install 10 cameras across the city to help police solve crimes, Schwieterman has said. Records show $27,500 was approved for the system.

The issue was on council’s agenda last month but removed because some of its new members elected in November needed more information on the issue, Kettering Mayor Peggy Lehner said.

Centerville and Vandalia have approved the license plate reading cameras while Dayton has considered them after a 2020 pilot program, officials said.

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Flock says its systems have helped police solve hundreds of murders and violent crimes, recover thousands of stolen vehicles and seize hundreds of illegal weapons.

However, information captured on automatic license plate readers — including the license plate number, and the date, time and location of every scan — is being collected and sometimes pooled into regional sharing systems, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Kettering already has traffic cameras at major intersections throughout the city, but the Flock system uses “intelligent cameras” that provide more details, Schwieterman has said.

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