Lexington to add more license plate reading cameras around the city
Lexington Police say 25 Flock cameras will be placed throughout Fayette County
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – License plate reading cameras put up around Lexington are already helping solve crimes, according to Lexington Police. The cameras are called ‘Flock cameras’. With nine already in use, Lexington Police say that number will increase to 25, focused in high-crime areas.
“This is Lexington moving into the future and that’s what we have to do to keep up with some of the activities that we see,” says Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers.
Investigators are crediting one of the cameras with helping identify and catch a man accused of dumping a dead dog in a business dumpster in March. But the cameras are not without critics, some people calling them “Big Brother” saying they’re an invasion of privacy and could even lead to profiling.
There’s a lot of debate, controversy and mis-information surrounding the use of Flock cameras by police. Police took some of those criticisms head-on at a news conference Monday.
Some people believe these cameras are used to track speed and look for people who run red lights or stop signs, but Lexington Police say the cameras don’t have that capability.
“State law currently requires that any traffic violation be witnessed by a police officer. So, they’re currently not able to be used for that, legally,” says Lexington Police Assistant Chief Eric Lowe. “It’s not a live feed of video, they take still images when a vehicle passes by.”
According to Lexington Police, these photos are then stored in a database by the camera company that is erased every 30 days. When a vehicle is involved in a crime, police say they’re able to search the database using the vehicle description or license plate to see if there are any matches.
“This is just a way to get started in your investigation and it makes it so much quicker. It usually would take maybe 3/4/5 days for partial plates or some of those investigations, without anything else coming in, to get a lead,” says Lieutenant Matthew Greathouse with Lexington Police. “This, a person could log-in in five minutes and they could see if it’s there or if it’s not.”
At Monday’s news conference, police were asked multiple times for general neighborhoods or areas where these flock cameras would be placed, but police wouldn’t release any locations.
“It’s very simple,” says Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton. “When you’re in the public using public infrastructure, these cameras have every right to be there and people do not have the right to a particular kind of exemption from the license plate readers because they’re in public right of way.”
Lexington Police say so far, the cameras have helped solve nine criminal cases.
Mayor Gorton plans on funding the Flock camera program with part of her budget, to be released Tuesday. Lexington Police says the Flock camera program is in a pilot phase for the next year and will be re-evaluated in 2023.