WOONSOCKET — Controversial surveillance cameras have become part of daily life in Woonsocket, despite privacy concerns raised last year.
Last August, 13 Flock security cameras were installed in Woonsocket. Although city council members expressed concern and confusion over the lack of public input into the decision to install the cameras, the cameras remained in service and the city recommitted to them this month.
On February 7, the board passed an 8-0 resolution to enter into a contract with Flock Safety totaling $116,250 over three years. Although a request for proposals was issued soliciting other potential suppliers of automated license plate cameras, the police department ultimately chose to recommend Flock Safety to the board based on its offer price and prerequisite qualifications.
At the meeting, Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Oates said similar enforcement cameras are in use throughout Rhode Island, especially in Cranston and Glocester, with “many departments” using Flock in the Massachusetts.
The cameras record vehicles and license plates, but not faces, gender, race or any personally identifying characteristics. Camera data is recorded for 30 days prior to erasure and is owned by the Woonsocket Police Department.
Police departments with Flock software can access information from other departments on the network. The transparency website hosted by Flock Safety on behalf of Woonsocket says access “requires a valid reason and is stored indefinitely”.
Cameras are looking for previously reported license plates associated with someone committing a crime. If the license plate appears on a “hot list” for the National Crime Information Center or the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Amber Alert, it will alert the Woonsocket Police Department. From there, a human verifies the identification and follows the appropriate actions.
Of the hotlist hits since the cameras were installed last August, five resulted in the arrest for stolen vehicles, and another resulted in the arrest of someone with a domestic assault warrant.
In another case, police apprehended a 14-year-old child who stole a car from Lincoln and ran away from home.
“In a situation like this, the child could have caused more harm that night with reckless driving or committed other crimes, so it was good that we were able to catch him,” Oates said. . The breeze.
Oates also pointed out that when stolen vehicles are involved, there’s always more to the story.
“Most people use them to commit more serious crimes,” he said, stating that more than 70% of all crimes involve the use of a vehicle and that vehicle theft can facilitate other legal activities.
Chief Oates informed the council that Flock Safety’s software would give the Woonsocket Police Department access to other Flock security cameras in Rhode Island, surrounding states and nationwide. Currently, he said, Flock representatives are talking with the Providence Police Department and could mount up to 85 cameras in that city.
North Providence and East Providence are considering the same, Oates said. He estimated that Flock’s system could expand to 200 cameras statewide over the next year.