NewsLEX 18 In-Depth


License plate reader cameras arrive, some worry about transparency

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Posted at 7:54 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 19:54:26-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After one week of installation, Lexington Police say the pilot Flock Safety camera program is working.

The City of Lexington received 25 cameras at no cost for the year in exchange for their partnership with Flock Safety, Axon Enterprise, and the National Police Foundation for a nationwide study.

Nine cameras have already been installed across the city.

After resisting arrest and then getting away, Lexington police say they have the new cameras to thank for helping them track down three suspects and recover a stolen red car on Monday.

"We're not even fully implemented with our pilot yet and we're already starting to see success stories right and left," said Lt. Matthew Greathouse.

LPD says within the one week the new Flock license plate reader cameras were installed, they've recovered at least three other cars and solved several crimes.

The cameras take 6-7 still images of cars' license plates as they pass, allowing police to search the color, make and type once they have a partial description.

"We're only tracking crime. If a crime happens, then we're looking for the vehicle associated with that crime we're not monitoring people's movements or vehicles," said Chief Lawrence Weathers.

Police say they will not be used to enforce traffic violations like speed limits or red lights. The photos are stored for 30 days and then deleted unless they're a part of an investigation.

Even though the cameras are in plain view, Weathers says the department will not be releasing the locations.

"I think for the inherency of officer investigations and for officer safety even giving out general locations is not advisable," said Weathers.

But that reasoning is not sitting well with some in the community like l-p-d accountability who are already making plans to publish the locations of cameras they find.

"People are definitely concerned about over surveillance and a lack of community oversight and community control," said Organizer James Woodhead. "We feel that if the Lexington Police Department refuses to identify the locations, that the community should step up and identify the location so that it will be public knowledge."

Their main concern is that without knowing where the cameras are located they could be placed in areas that are already overly policed.

Weathers says there's not much they can do about people choosing to scope the locations on their own.

However, locations were decided based on the past two years of community-reported crime data, and would not be aggregated in one targeted neighborhood.

"It's a free county. People can do what they want to do. I don't know how accurate they're going to be though," said Weathers.

The remaining 16 cameras will be installed by the end of May by the company Flock Safety.

Even though the cameras are free now, Mayor Linda Gorton says she has already included funding for them in her next budget.

Gorton says they are a part of the city's effort to reduce crime and plans to share exactly how much money will be dedicated to the program in her budget address on Tuesday.