Suffolk Police installing license plate readers throughout city to curb crime

license plate readers
Posted at 6:23 PM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 19:23:10-04

SUFFOLK, Va. – Suffolk Police are installing new cameras all over the city, but these are different.

They’re license plate readers, which scan virtually every car that drives through Suffolk.

“I feel like it’s a bit much,” said one driver who works in Suffolk.

Drivers can now see the cameras on traffic lights or on poles by themselves. They’re scattered throughout downtown and the main roads into the city.

Police say the plate readers are meant to fight crime. The cameras send a real-time alert to law enforcement for a stolen car, known wanted suspect or missing or endangered person.

“It runs it against the NCIC database to find out if that vehicle is stolen; if the tags are stolen; if there’s an AMBER Alert; if there’s a Silver alert; or if that vehicle is related to any wanted person, or any hotlist that’s been created for that vehicle.”

The company Flock Safety that builds and installs the cameras, says so far, they’re working.

While the crime reduction rate is different in every community, Flock says law enforcement has seen up to 70% in reducing crime overall.

Some people who live and work in the city are skeptical.

“I’m prior co, so I think people are going to commit crimes no matter what, but I think it is good way to pick up on stolen vehicles,” said driver Daniel Keener. “I’m not against it. I’m just not convinced there’s any measure you can really do to reduce crime.”

Police say the cameras don’t catch you for speeding and the department deletes data collected from the plates after a month.

Capt. Jesse Epperson with the Suffolk Police Department says that information is not shared

“The cameras are taking pictures of vehicles and vehicle license plates. That’s it,” Epperson said. “We don’t know who’s driving. We don’t know any type of demographics or anything about the driver.”

Some drivers, however, have their doubts when it comes to privacy.

“It is a bit concerning with it being collected but information is always being collected either way,” said a driver in Suffolk who wanted to remain anonymous. “It’s just another way to capture that.”

The cameras were approved in the city’s budget for about $100,000. Police said 14 cameras will be live by Monday and they plan to install dozens more in the coming months.