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East Bay Township to consider license plate surveillance cameras

Flock Safety's automatic license plate reader (ALPR). Photo: Flock Safety
Flock Safety's automatic license plate reader (ALPR). (Photo provided by Flock Safety)

East Bay Township will hear a presentation Monday on possibly installing cameras to record and store license plates.

Each license plate is stored in a database accessible by law enforcement. The company that sells them is called Flock Safety and their client is the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office.

East Bay Township supervisor Beth Friend said she wants to know more about the camera’s safety mechanisms, "so that it is not used in an abusive way or in a way that invades privacy."

Capt. Randy Fewless, with the sheriff's office, said the cameras are not meant for monitoring speed limits or red lights. Instead, they’ll be used to check for stolen vehicles, missing persons or to aid investigations.

“I can’t sit at my desk here in the detective bureau and go to ‘Flock Camera number four.’ It doesn't have that ability," Feweless said. "It’s just a database where it’s catching vehicles going by so that if law enforcement needs a picture of a certain car or plate, at some point in time to help solve a crime, that it’s there for us."

License plate data is stored for 30 days and then wiped from the system. Officials say the cameras don’t capture faces nor do they have facial recognition.

Advocacy groups like the ACLU warn that these cameras are vastly unregulated nationwide. But the group does not “generally” object to their use for stolen vehicle checks or missing persons alerts.

Garfield and Peninsula townships have already approved the cameras. East Bay Township officials will get a presentation on the cameras at their meeting tonight at 6:30.

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