East Bay, Mich., Buys License Plate Cameras

East Bay trustees decided Monday that their township would be the third in Grand Traverse County to install license plate reading cameras in cooperation with the sheriff's office.

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(TNS) — East Bay trustees decided Monday that their township would be the third in Grand Traverse County to install license-plate reading cameras in cooperation with the sheriff's office.

After 90 minutes of discussion, all trustees but one — Glen Lile — voted to approve the motion for seven cameras for $89,950 over five years — $19,950 for the first year and $17,500 annually for the remaining four years.

The money for these cameras will come out of the township's police fund, which currently has a balance of $84,687.01, records showed. Slightly more than half of that money, $44,966.86, is from liquor license fees in the township.

East Bay Township Supervisor Beth Friend said she would have to doublecheck to see if the profits earned from those liquor licenses could be used to purchase the cameras.

Lile said during the meeting that he would have approved a two-year contract, but he believes a five-year contract is too long, citing the potential for new technology being developed within that time.

With the action approved, East Bay Township should have seven Flock Cameras installed in the next eight to 12 weeks.

"We hope to have them all up and running by the summer," Capt. Randy Fewless told the board Monday.

Last month, Peninsula and Garfield townships also voted to have the cameras installed, following recommendation by the sheriff's office.

But, unlike the previous two townships, all of the East Bay board members agreed to add a stipulation to this contract requiring the sheriff's office to report back annually with quantitative results from these cameras.

With these actions by the three townships, a total of 27 cameras — six in Peninsula, 14 in Garfield and seven in East Bay— should be operating in the county in the next few months.

"I wish this were countywide because I do feel like coverage on a county level is going to make this the most effective tool that there is," Friend said prior to the vote. "Right now, that's not where we're going."

The company that provides and installs the cameras — Flock Safety of Atlanta, Ga. — charges $2,850 per camera for the first year, then $2,500 per camera for each year after that.

These new cameras are called automatic license plate cameras, or ALPRs. In addition to capturing pictures of each license plate on the vehicles that drive by, they also will utilize something the parent company, Flock Safety, calls a "vehicle fingerprint."

Company representatives say this technology will allow law enforcement personnel to search for vehicle make, type, color, license plate, state, covered plates, missing plates and any other atypical features, such as bumper stickers or bike racks.

Local law enforcement will only receive an emergency alert if the license plate is on a stolen vehicle, driven by a known wanted offender or is part of a missing or endangered persons alert, they said.

According to data collected by the sheriff's office, 70 percent of all crimes involve a vehicle of some kind.

Fewless has said this type of technology will allow them to solve more crimes, including hit-and-runs.

The data collected by these cameras will be stored in Flock's database for 30 days, before the company said it would be wiped off.

Garfield and Peninsula township Supervisors Chuck Korn and Isaiah Wunsch previously told the Record-Eagle that they don't expect any privacy concerns with this new technology.

East Bay trustees asked both Fewless and Flock Safety's Senior Community Affairs Manager Laura Ann Holland multiple questions about how the data will be stored and who would have access to it.

According to Holland, all of the photos captured by Flock's cameras are stored in an AWS cloud for 30 days, and only the law enforcement agencies that contract for those cameras will have the ability to see that data.

State records from the National Conference of State Legislatures show that, thus far, 16 states have adopted laws that limit the use of ALPR cameras. Michigan is not one of them.

Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Office is not the first law enforcement agency in the state to sign contracts with Flock.

Fewless said the cameras also are used by police in metropolitan Detroit and Kent County, and that Michigan State Police are looking to utilize them on freeways throughout the state.

© 2023 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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