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How new security cameras will help officers combat crime

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 11:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - In response to a surge in violent crime, the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is putting up cameras around hot spot areas.

We spoke with the company behind the cameras to find out how the new technology will help officers.

Twenty-five ‘Flock’ security cameras will be going up throughout Richmond County.

It uses artificial intelligence to identify the letters and numbers on license plates.

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“We build technology that helps law enforcement and the communities they’re tasked to serve, solve crime,” said Josh Thomas, Flock Safety, VP of external communications & community affairs.

These cameras are getting placed in what deputies call “crime hot spots.”

“We take a picture of the back of cars. Our devices use machine learning to identify the make, type, and color of those vehicles,” said Thomas.

The system runs the tag number through databases, checking for stolen cars and amber alerts. The results are seen nationwide:

  • WOIO: Cleveland, Ohio: “The system has helped produce 33 arrests and in the recovery of 13 stolen cars.”
  • WBRC: Helena, Alabama: “These images of accused killer John Peyton Scott III’s car were captured by license plate reading cameras.”
  • WALB: Valdosta, Georgia: “Here in Valdosta, it recently helped the Valdosta Police Department solve a shooting.”
  • WBRC: Vestavia Hills, Alabama: “The cameras recently helped them catch a man accused of shooting into another car during a road rage incident.”

The system captures all plate numbers, not just the ones flagged for criminal activity. The concept may raise eyebrows to those who wonder, ‘is this big brother?’

The cameras only capture plate numbers. They don’t video people out and about. And your plate number gets erased after 30 days if it’s not marked for an investigation.

“We are taking pictures of public information on public roads, seeing if they’re stolen or wanted vehicles, and if they’re not— permanently delete all that footage. We’re not looking at it, not accessing it, not selling it to third parties. We are trying to help police solve crime,” said Thomas.

They say it serves as something both proactive and reactive.

“We like to have these conversations to let people know: don’t commit crime in Augusta, or you’re going to be caught,” he said.

It can also help catch criminals even if they’re not in a stolen car.

For example, if there was a shooting, but all we knew was the getaway car was a white Toyota, they check the cameras and pull up all the white Toyotas who drove through the neighborhood that night.

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