Quincy Police Department looking at cameras throughout city to identify license plates

police cameras

Flock Safety’s cameras give police vehicle search capabilities including make, color, type, license plate and state of the license plate.

QUINCY — The Quincy Police Department wants to speed up investigations and offset reduced manpower by installing multiple cameras around the city to identify vehicle license plates.

Adam Yates, chief of the Quincy Police Department, made a presentation Tuesday night to the Quincy City Council’s Police Aldermanic Committee to spend $117,600 on a two-year lease for 20 cameras to be placed around Quincy.

Yates’ plan calls for the cameras to primarily be located at the city’s main entrance and exit street locations, including Bayview Bridge and new the Ill. 104/I-172 interchange. Others would be placed based on traffic patterns and other data.

The technology Yates is recommending is from Flock Safety, a company founded in 2017. It sells automated license plate recognition technology to law enforcement agencies. The cameras read license plates and sent alerts to law enforcement officers when the cameras identify license plates that match those on lists of cars that are stolen or are of interest to the police.

Flock Safety already has placed its technology in nearly 200 Illinois communities, including Springfield, Rock Island, East Moline, Chatham and Jacksonville. It claims on its website to reduce crime by 70 percent in the communities it serves.

“The Quincy Police Department … is down nine police officers again. This is an issue that is constant for all police departments across the country, and I think it’s time that we really start focusing on using technology to help us do our jobs better,” Yates said.

“We have limited police resources. Obviously we’ve had an increase in shootings over the course of the last six months in the city of Quincy. Thankfully, we’ve made some arrests on those but, you know, we anticipate these types of problems occurring from time to time. We want to make sure that we’re establishing trust and transparency with the community.”

Yates said the technology allows an officer to download the video taken by the camera directly into their laptops when a car needs to be identified.

Alderman Tony Sassen (R-4), a member of the Police Aldermanic Committee, said he could see people worrying about these cameras being seen as “Big Brother.” Yates and Mike Tyler, a deputy chief with the Quincy Police Department, suggested having public information sessions to discuss the cameras with the community before being installed.

Yates said the technology no different than an officer calling dispatch to run a license plate — except that it is faster.

“We could literally stand a police officer on every corner and run license plates as they go by, and that’s completely legal,” he said. “It would be very expensive, and our dispatch center would have an absolute fit if we did that. But there’s nothing that technically is illegal or is an invalid search. What the license plate readers do is give us objective evidence to use for criminal investigations.”

The cameras capture the back of the vehicles. Yates said facial recognition won’t be used, and the data is only stored for 30 days. If a crime is not reported in that period, the information is automatically deleted.

“Not only does it capture the license plate on the back of the vehicle, but it also identifies the vehicle make model and color,” Yates said. “If we don’t have a license plate number, for example, but we know it was a person in a white Ford pickup truck that committed the crime because that’s what a witness told us, we’re able to go through a search for white Ford pickup trucks. The flock technology will give us every white Ford pickup truck that passed a certain license plate reader (at the time of the alleged crime).”

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a report last year which had concerns about Flock’s technology.

The committee approved sending the recommendation to the full City Council for a vote.

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