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Cameras that read license plates will “virtually gate” the city of Stanton

Cameras that can take hundreds of images a minute and read license plates in real-time – even on cars traveling more than 100 miles per hour – already are on the job in the city of Stanton. And more are going up.

The City Council this week unanimously approved leasing 26 cameras to add to 10 already in use. They’ll all be mounted on street light poles.

“We want to virtually gate Stanton,” said Allan Rigg, director of public works. “And we want a record of cars that are coming into town and those leaving town … so we have a record of vehicles when crimes occur.”

Last February, the city approved getting 10 of the cameras from Flock Safety, a company touting affordable solar-powered cameras to police departments and homeowners associations. The cameras started operating in October.

Four cameras were installed on Beach Boulevard and four on Katella Avenue. The other two were installed on Village Center Drive to monitor new developments in the area, but those are expected to be moved, according to the city.

The city of Stanton will soon be installing more license plate reading cameras to several city poles. The proposed areas are seen here in a map presented in a report for the city council, which approved the move on Tuesday, Jan. 26. (City of Stanton)

Once the photos are taken they are sent wireless to a cloud-based server that has a database on all registered motor vehicles. If a license plate number is linked to stolen cars or Amber Alerts, the server notifies the dispatch unit. Information can also be used during investigations as a way to look back at vehicles based on their timestamps, make, model and color.

It will cost about $100,800 a year to operate and store all 36 cameras’ data, which is paid for by money the city gets through law enforcement grants.

The cameras and its data will be operated by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, which handles law enforcement for Stanton and it’s more than 38,000 residents.

Orange County Sheriff’s Captain Cruz Alday, who leads police services in Stanton, said in a Jan.14 memo to the city that the first 10 cameras have helped solve criminal cases.

“Within minutes of providing access to our Deputies, a hit (alert) was received for a stolen vehicle,” Alday detailed. “Deputies were able to locate the vehicle and apprehended the suspect. This trend has continued and has not slowed down.”

The cameras helped recover about 25 stolen vehicles, he said.

Alday also said the cameras helped solve two fatal pedestrian crashes in November and December 2020.

“The team was able to identify the suspect vehicle on both cases and has allowed for the investigation to continue, which otherwise would’ve possibly turned into an unsolved cold case.”

“Additional cameras throughout the city will not only benefit our investigators in their criminal cases (and) our deputies in locating stolen vehicles, but over time will hopefully assist in the overall reduction of crime,” the captain said.

The city of Stanton will soon be installing more license plate reading cameras to several city poles. The move to acquire the cameras, which they hope will solve and deter crimes, was approved by the city council on Tuesday, Jan. 26. (Photo courtesy of Flock Safety)

Similar technology has often warranted concerns over police surveillance and privacy. In recent years, police departments have partnered with companies like doorbell-camera operator Ring to share video footage. Law enforcement agencies usually maintain that information is only used to help investigate suspected criminal acts.

Flock Safety promotes that it deletes all footage after 30 days, though local authorities are paying an extra fee to keep it for one year.

This gives deputies more time on cases in Stanton, which Sheriff’s Sgt. Dennis Breckner described as a “busy” place when it comes to investigations.

The local authorities own the data and the manufacturer does not have access to it.

“We do not make our information immediately available to outside agencies but we will review any requests that come in and supply information on a case by case basis,” Breckner said.

License plate readers are more common as cameras mounted on police patrol cars but are popping up more often on city posts. Apart from Stanton, Lake Forest- also serviced by the sheriff’s department — also recently implemented the cameras.

Flock Safety would not say how many or which cities in Orange County it contracted with. Josh Miller, who handles public relations for Flock Safety, said only that the company works with dozens of private communities and law enforcement agencies in Southern California. In August, the city of Azusa announced it would also install Flock Safety cameras, as did the city of Ontario in February.

Miller further added, “We do not use facial recognition technology and have never worked with federal agencies for immigration enforcement.”

Rigg, the public works director, thinks the benefits the cameras provide outweigh concerns people would have about privacy. The cameras aren’t meant to surveil ordinary people, he said, adding, “It is an exciting technology that will be effective in making Stanton a safer place.”

Rigg recalls when similar cameras were far more expensive and difficult to install.

But the new cameras should be up and running within the next couple of months.

Source: Orange County Register

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