Rural Iowa Police Department Installs New Tracker That Has Raised Privacy Concerns | Local crime and courts


CAMANCHE, Iowa — South of Clinton near U.S. Highway 67, four high-speed cameras capture a computer-readable image of the license plate of every car that passes through this small river town of less than 5,000 people.

A new generation of surveillance technology first launched in the UK in the 1990s to combat the Provisional Irish Republican Army’s terrorist attacks in the City of London has seen increasing use and popularity in the US over the past decade. But while initially reserved for large metropolitan police departments, surveillance cameras – seen as an improved tool for tracking stolen vehicles, wanted criminals and abducted children – are increasingly making their way into communities and rural neighborhoods and raising privacy concerns.

The nine members Camanche Police Station announced this week its partnership with Herd safetya public safety operating system, to install seven automated license plate reader cameras in the city “as part of a proactive and reactive fight against crime”.

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Local law enforcement, including the Davenport Police Department, say the technology provides an invaluable asset in tracking, locating and apprehending wanted criminals and Amber Alert subjects, and that it has already been proven that helps locate stolen vehicles quickly.

Davenport Police and the Scott County Sheriff’s Department have been using the technology since around 2018 or early 2019.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been making a technology push, which includes updating car dash cams, with body-worn cameras and (purchasing) camera-equipped Tasers,” he said. said Camanche Police Chief Richard Schmitz Jr. “This was another step in the progression of using technology to help solve some crimes in the area.”

The seven license plate readers will be installed primarily along the Highway 67 corridor. Four have been installed in the past two days, just off the highway. Installation of the remaining three cameras will require approval and authorization from the Iowa Department of Transportation, Schmitz said.

“We’ve had commercial and residential burglaries that went unsolved because we didn’t have the intelligence that these cameras are able to give us,” he said, adding that readers are also used by Clinton and Fulton, Illinois, police departments.

“Both agencies have already seen potential there,” Schmitz said. “They have located stolen vehicles and people with warrants in just a few months that they have been operational at these agencies. They have reduced the time it takes to find suspects and clear up investigations.”

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, law enforcement’s use of automated license plate readers (ALPR) has grown rapidly, with tens of thousands of readers in use in the United States. Based on the latest available figures from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 93% of police departments in cities with a population of 1 million or more use their own LPR systems, according to the nonpartisan Institute of Law and Politics. In cities of 100,000 or more, 75% of police departments use LPR systems.

Little-noticed high-speed cameras mounted on police cars, traffic signs, bridges and poles photograph thousands of plates per minute. The devices convert each license plate number into machine-readable text and compare them to agency-selected national or state crime databases or manually entered license plate numbers, providing an alert whenever a match or “hit” appears.

Real-time alerts are also activated if a vehicle associated with a missing person in an AMBER or Silver alert is detected.

Use of devices led to privacy concerns of the American Civil Liberties Union about how the information collected by readers – including the license plate number and the date, time and location of each scan – and how it is collected, shared and used.

“When used in a tight and carefully regulated manner, LPRs can help police recover stolen cars and arrest people with outstanding warrants,” according to the ACLU of Iowa. “The biggest problem with RAPI systems is the creation of databases containing location information on every motorist who encounters the system, not just those the government suspects of criminal activity. Police departments across the country use RAPI to quietly accumulating millions of license plates, storing them in backend databases We want to make sure that Iowa law enforcement does not violate the privacy rights of Iowa citizens.

To protect the privacy and constitutional rights of individuals, Schmitz said the Camanche Police Department has adopted a policy that license plate photos and data stored on Flock Safety’s servers will be deleted after 30 days. .

“It’s the industry standard, and we keep citizens’ privacy concerns in mind,” he said.

The Camanche PD policy also provides guidance for the capture and use of digital data obtained from the cameras as well as guidelines for investigation and patrol duties, training, data release and accountability, according to a Press release.

Flock security cameras — which it says are used in more than 1,500 cities in 40 states by more than 1,200 police departments — do not record speed or use facial recognition.


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