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Science and Technology

License plate reading cameras are helping an increasing number of police solve crimes

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Flock Safety
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The cameras are powered by solar and are connected to an FBI database.

The latest addition to an increasing number of police departments is a network of remote cameras. Twelve-hundred departments nationwide now have them, including 85 in Ohio.

Mt. Healthy has had them for over a year. Golf Manor and Blue Ash are seeing success. Hamilton Township and Warren County just got the cameras, and Madeira Police will have some in place by the summer. Franklin, Kettering and West Carrollton are also praising the solar-powered cameras that catch criminals.

The motion-activated cameras, sold by Flock Safety, capture a clear picture of license plates that pass by them, as well as the back of the vehicle, showing color, make and type.

Flock Spokesperson Holly Beilin says there are privacy protections in place and the cameras are not looking for speeders. “No speed, no facial recognition," she says. "You can’t search by people. You can only search in the system by the vehicle characteristics.”

The pictures are stored for 30 days.

Beilin says having the license plate numbers is valuable to detectives trying to solve crimes in certain areas. The camera is also linked to an FBI database, as Mt. Healthy Sgt. Alan Fath explains to WVXU.

“They’re subsequently run through the National Crime Information Center and if those vehicles are stolen or there’s a warrant attached to the license plate — information like that — it alerts an officer on duty and they can search the area for the vehicle,” he says.

Beilin says the cameras are solving hundreds of crimes a day in 40 states.