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What impact are Flock cameras making in Lexington?

FLOCK CAMERA.jpg
Posted at 7:29 PM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-09 19:29:37-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — It's been more than two months since the new police license plate-reading cameras were installed across Lexington and although challenged by some who still labeled it surveillance, many city leaders are pleased with the results they're seeing so far.

Lexington Police say Flock Safety has already seen success in their eyes. Data the department shared with LEX 18 shows dozens of citations issued and arrests made directly as a result of Flock alerts.

The citations included: domestic violence, probation violations, assaults, drug possession, and receiving and being in possession of stolen property.

Police say there have been 26 stolen vehicles recovered, 2 missing persons located, 10 investigations furthered, and they've located a suspect in a discarded dog case.

However, they are standing by their controversial decision not to release the camera locations. Chief Lawrence Weathers addressed the topic at a March press conference.

Open records from the department reveal the streets where Flock-related arrests and stops were made from March 22 to May 25.

Almost all of the incidents were located on Lexington's northside.

LEX 18 checked in with the council members representing the northside about this. Council member Jennifer Reynolds chose not to comment. We did not get a response from Councilmember Preston Worley.

Councilmember James Brown sent this statement:

"It's important to remember that Flock Cameras are currently in a trial period. The council is still very interested in hearing feedback from our police department and the community about their impact as we make future decisions about the cameras and policy."

Councilmember Josh McCurn told us he felt the program was working for his constituents.

"We've had a lot of activity. Every month that we continue with the Flock system. It continues to enhance and help our police department capture some of these vehicles and return the assets to their owners," said McCurn.

McCurn says he's heard from constituents in his district about how they feel the program is going.

"Overwhelming support from all of our neighborhoods for this system. The system is not a surveillance and that's a common word that's been thrown out there is surveillance. That's not what this is," said McCurn.

He's interested in seeing how the map of arrests will look once the remaining cameras are installed.

Councilmember Kloiber feels like it is surveillance and that it's not preventing crime, just reacting to it.

"I will never be a proponent to say more surveillance makes us safer, but I think that we should take those resources and get them to our police in a way that helps them prevent these crimes working with the community," said Kloiber.

He says while his constituents are concerned about crime, he isn't sure how the program is making them safer.

"My constituents are very concerned about the rising groups of people that are coming to our neighborhood stealing cars, stealing guns out of cars," said Kloiber. "They have the same concerns as everyone else, but these cameras aren't preventing it. Neither are people's Ring doorbell cameras or any other surveillance we have. Surveillance doesn't prevent crime it only helps us after the fact."

What Kloiber would like to see is the money invested for next year's Flock program used instead to fully implement G.V.I. A program Mayor Linda Gorton has spoken out against.

"I think that we can absolutely stand behind the police in helping them to get the resources they need to solve the crimes that need to be solved but right now we have an issue with prevention, and we need to be focusing our efforts on preventing these violent comes from happening before it takes place. And since we've had these Flock cameras in place, we've had another 11 to 13 homicides that these Flock cameras have in no way prevented," said Kloiber.

Since their installation, LEX 18 has also gotten questions during Flock calls, asking about the large police response and sometimes the police helicopter.

The largest police presence recorded was 19 officers for a call on Winchester road last month. Even though neighbors say they saw the police helicopter 'Air One', a spokesperson with the department says Air One did not respond to that call and that the helicopter was just in the vicinity of an unrelated call.

Police told us Air One is not generally called out for license plate reader alerts but may respond if it's already flying. Records show it did respond to two Flock-related calls.

One for a domestic violence assault with a minor injury. Another for receiving stolen property less than $1,000.

How they respond to license plate reader alerts is based on the "totality of circumstances," police said. Not every alert gets a response, and some situations call for a large response.

For example, if the suspects of a stolen vehicle choose to flee on foot into a wooded area, more officers will be dispatched to set up a perimeter, police added.

It is still just a pilot program for now. Flock Safety is free to the city for a year to try out. The program ends in 10 months. Then the city will have to decide if the Flock cameras are here to stay and worth the $275,000 the mayor has already budgeted to pay for 75 more.

Here's what Mayor Linda Gorton had to say about the program so far:

"A little over two months into the pilot project, and so far, we have seen successes. Even though we have only installed about half of the 25 readers that are part of the pilot, stolen vehicles have been recovered, missing persons located, and we caught a man who threw a dog's body into a dumpster. It's important that we give our police officers the best tools and technology to help them solve crimes. That's what this pilot project is testing."