Mayor Linda Gorton prioritizes safety with more flock cameras in 2023 budget

Posted at 5:17 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 17:17:04-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton chose to prioritize public safety in the city's 2023 budget. And part of that plan is to use $275,000 for 75 additional Flock license plate reader cameras.

"Law enforcement is facing challenges to keeping us safe unlike ever before, and it is incumbent on us to invest in modern equipment to help them do their jobs," said Gorton.

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 of those cameras have already been installed across the city. The 16 others will be installed soon.

The 75 additional cameras would be purchased and installed "assuming the pilot license tag cameras continue to succeed."

According to the mayor, police have used the cameras to:

  • Locate and arrest suspects related to domestic violence and other assaults
  • Recover stolen cars
  • Identify the suspect in an animal abuse investigation

"I'm a firm believer that if we don't have a safe community, the rest doesn't matter," said Gorton. "Public safety is the number one foundation for a great community. So that's what this is about, and we have to keep up."

"We have already seen great results in terms of the types of people the police have been able to apprehend because they had a photo of the license plate," added Gorton.

The cameras take six to seven 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 Lexington Police 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.

Lexington Police and the City are choosing not to release the locations of the cameras, which concerns groups like LPD Accountability. Their main concern is that the cameras could be placed in areas that are already overly policed.

"People are definitely concerned about over surveillance and a lack of community oversight and community control," said Organizer James Woodhead.

Lexington will also spend $5 million to replace police vehicles.

The City is also "refocusing and expanding" ONE Lexington, a program designed to reduce gun violence among young people.

"I have added approximately $375,000 to One Lexington's budget to build partnerships across government, and throughout our city," said Gorton. "Partners will become involved in programs like the "It Take a Village" summer program, a grant program for violence intervention, youth mediation, street outreach, and evidence-based programs that address trauma."