Kettering considers license plate-reading cameras to help police



City council will vote Tuesday; some groups have expressed privacy concerns over the cameras

The city of Kettering may add automatic license plate detection cameras via a vendor contract, a move some other Dayton-area cities have already taken.

Kettering wants to work with Flock Group, Inc., to install 10 cameras across the city to help police solve crimes, City Manager Mark Schwieterman said.

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

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

For example, he said, police may respond to a call for service where the person provides a vehicle’s color and part of the license plate.

“We can then go to the Flock cameras and it will be able to tell us if that license plate went through that intersection,” Schwieterman said. “And if it does, we might be able to tell the make of the car from the license plate. Or we’ll get a full license plate off that car and we can use the data that way.”

Flock’s system is used by more than 1,200 cities as a means of helping neighborhoods, businesses and police to eliminate crime, according to company’s website.

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.

Centerville has yet to install its 10 cameras, but they will help police “proactively respond to and prevent crimes,” said Officer John Davis, Centerville police spokesman.

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.

As a result, “enormous databases of innocent motorists’ location information are growing rapidly” and “is often retained for years or even indefinitely, with few or no restrictions to protect privacy rights,” according to the ACLU.

In Kettering, the cameras would be used for “follow up,” Schwieterman said.

“So we’re not going to be scanning every single license plate or review every single license plate that goes through an intersection,” he said. “We feel the value is that it will help us resolve issues because it’s an additional tool that we can use to solve a crime.”

Kettering City Council on Tuesday night is set to consider a resolution to allow the city to contract with Flock. The estimated cost for Kettering this year would be $27,500, records show.

If approved, the cameras would likely be installed by the end of 2022, Schwieterman said.

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