Winston-Salem joins pilot for license plate reading cameras
The Winston-Salem Police Department will get a new system this year, which it says will improve crime prevention and response time. Several license plate reading cameras will be installed throughout the city’s wards.
The pilot program is a partnership with Axon and Flock Safety. They will provide the license plate readers free of charge to the police department during the year-long trial. Axon currently provides the Winston-Salem Police Department body cameras and other equipment.
Flock has installed these same cameras in Greensboro and in other North Carolina communities. The system will allow law enforcement agencies with the same technology to work together when an alert is issued like a missing person, stolen vehicles, or a shooting suspect.
The license plate reader captures the details of a vehicle when it passes by. That includes the plate number, color, and model.
“It just provides data, and so when that vehicle goes through an LPR, we will get that alert, so an officer doesn’t have to be there. An officer didn’t have to remember that that’s the vehicle. This is an extra set of eyes for law enforcement so that we can keep the community safer," says Winston Salem Assistant Police Chief William Penn, Jr.
License plate reading cameras have come under scrutiny from groups like the ACLU, which has issued recommendations on how to protect the privacy of citizens.
Penn says after 30 days, the information captured by the cameras is purged from the system unless it’s involved in crime or missing person cases.
The exact location for the license plate readers is still being decided, but he says crime data will help determine where they go.
The city already has a gunshot detection system known as Shot Spotter in some locations, and some of the cameras will be placed near those sites.
Penn says they will also likely be installed at major thoroughfares that come in and out of Winston-Salem.
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