GRAFTON, Wis. (CBS 58) – A new effort to crack down on crime in Grafton has not been without controversy.
The village installed five new cameras to take pictures of every passing car and license plate.
Police hope the new camera system will stop the increase in theft cases.
The cameras will do more than take a picture. They also capture the identifying characteristics of each car to give detectives more leads.
“Our retail thefts are on the rise in the region, we have a lot of unsolved cases, a lot of them can be found in stolen vehicles,” said Grafton Police Sgt. Patrick Brock.
The companies reported 118 retail thefts to Grafton Police last year. The department hopes these new cameras from Flock Safety will solve these cases.
“There are thousands upon thousands of dollars of retail thefts that occur every week in our retail stores,” said Brock.
The cameras will take a photo of the license plate and take a profile photo of a car. The system is then able to bundle bumper stickers or trailer hitches, giving detectives more means to search for suspicious cars. The system will also send alerts if the license plate reader gets a match for a stolen car, stolen license plate, or anything else leading to a crime put into a national database.
“We will receive real-time notification in which direction it is moving, the description of the vehicle and that license plate,” said Brock.
Technology doesn’t come without its critics. The Wisconsin ACLU sent CBS 58 a statement that read in part:
“Both nationally and locally, there is a disturbing trend that local law enforcement agencies are increasingly using surveillance technology, but doing so in secret or outside of public control. “
But Flock Safety believes it has developed its system to address these concerns.
“By focusing on cars and vehicle license plates, it’s not about people, we’re not using facial recognition technology,” said Josh Thomas, vice president of Flock Safety Marketing.
He said that the data collected by the cameras is erased every 30 days and that the company strictly controls who has access to the information.
“Everything is encrypted, no third party has access to it, Flock Safety staff, we don’t have access to any of these images,” Thomas said.
He also said that the public can access the data by asking law enforcement agencies to access it through open case laws.
“We make it available to check on what’s going on, and we’re very careful about who has access and for how long,” Thomas said.
Grafton will also receive alerts of a similar setup to Jackson. Brock hopes this system will help the ministry close more theft cases.
“The camera systems in some buildings at some companies are not as rugged, or a lot of times the criminals park well away from the cameras,” Brock said.
The system has been operational since early June. Each camera costs Grafton $ 2,500.