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West Hartford, Conn., Deploys License Plate-Reading Cameras

Thirteen newly installed cameras will capture vehicle information, not people or faces, and send instant alerts to police when a stolen car or wanted suspect from a state or national database enters town, police officials said.

(TNS) — License plate-reading cameras have been placed around West Hartford to help solve and reduce crime, police said.

The 13 cameras were installed in strategic areas during a trial period for testing and evaluation that runs through June 30, Assistant Police Chief Lawrence Terra said Wednesday. Built by Flock Safety, the cameras are not meant to record plates for traffic and parking offenses, but rather for serious crimes, police said.

The cameras capture vehicle information, not people or faces, and send instant alerts to police when a stolen car or wanted suspect from a state or national database enters town, police said. The cameras also can send alerts if a vehicle associated with a missing person in an AMBER or Silver Alert is detected.

Police want to see how efficient, cost effective and useful the system is and plan to compare the Flock Safety cameras with similar products made by other companies, Terra said.

Police say they will maintain an updated policy around the system. Each search requires justification, and the data is never sold or shared with third parties, police said.

In January, East Hartford police credited evidence from a recently installed street camera with helping to arrest a juvenile suspect in the fatal shooting of another teenager. The $570,000 system feeds into a police intelligence center designed to monitor crime hot spots.

The dozen cameras in East Hartford are positioned above streets and intersections to capture images of vehicles and license plates. Police said the cameras provide what reluctant witnesses will not and also can reinforce witness statements.

Hartford police have used an extensive system of street cameras for years, along with fixed and vehicle-mounted license plate-reading cameras, police spokesman Lt. Aaron Boisvert said.

Atlanta-based Flock Safety is described on its website as a public safety operating system that helps communities and law enforcement in over 1,500 cities work together to eliminate crime. The company cites statistics from the International Association of Chiefs of Police that up to 70% of crime involves the use of a vehicle, making registration records crucial to many investigations.

Flock Safety technology, according to the company, integrates with the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), to provide alerts to dispatchers and patrol officers on plates associated with outstanding warrants, missing persons, and stolen vehicles.

“Since stolen vehicles are often used to perpetuate more crime and the inhabitants of those vehicles are more likely to have been involved in violent crime,” the company says, “a stop of a stolen vehicle as a result of a Flock alert disrupts the crime cycle by removing criminal transportation and arresting suspects.”

The company’s customers own all data and footage collected, according to Flock Safety. Once captured, footage is transmitted immediately to a secure cloud server and encrypted at every point along the way, according to the company.

©2022 Hartford Courant, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.