WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Wyoming Department of Public Safety said it is seeing results from the 12 license plate readers installed in the city.
The department is defending the use of the technology from concerns about privacy. Cpt. Eric Wiler said the Flock Safety readers were installed at six locations at the end of February and the beginning of March.
“It has really been a game changer for us with helping protect our community,” Wiler said. “It was a tool that we recognize that would really help us and help provide some safety to our community in solving some crimes, preventing some crimes. The cameras are about $2,500 apiece per year.”
Wiler said the technology has helped to identify many stolen vehicles and vehicles involved in crimes.
“We’re looking at four, five months now that we’ve been using them. In that time we’ve recovered 13 stolen vehicles and we’ve also made 19 arrests,” Wiler said.
Police say the technology has been especially helpful when investigating a string of recent car thefts in the area.
“We talk about the stolen cars, that’s obviously the big thing that the cameras catch, but it’s what’s being done with the stolen cars once they’re stolen and it’s the robberies, the shootings, those violent type of crimes,” Wiler said.
The cameras can be used for other steps beyond helping with investigating crimes.
“We’ve also had a missing dementia patient and we were able to locate that person because we put that in our list to give use that alert,” Wiler said.
The system notifies officers of a match but then additional steps are taken to verify the information is accurate.
“When we get the alert it simply says the vehicle make, color, model and then the license plate number and then why it’s on the list,” Wiler said. “Our officers have to verify that before they take any enforcement action, so the hit alone is not a reason for them to stop the car.”
Flock Safety said the cameras do not record speed or use facial recognition.
Wyoming police say the amount of time the data is kept is also limited.
“Any of the data it’s only kept for 30 days, so there’s not like there’s this big running log of all these plates you know going back in time,” Wiler said.
The American Civil Liberties Union was not available for an on-camera interview Wednesday night but has previously voiced privacy concerns about the use of plate reader technology and has questioned its effectiveness.