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Donations by businesses to the Roanoke Rapids Police Department totaling $27,000 will allow the department to install a series of cameras on state-maintained thoroughfares throughout the city for investigations.

Police Chief Bobby Martin said the department plans to have the cameras up within the next month or so.

“Their motivation is with the changing of the times the businesses and citizens are looking at a way to help with the solvability of crimes,” Martin said today. “Anything to deter crimes is what we want to do.”

(An FAQ on the system can be downloaded at this link)

Martin presented an overview of the system Tuesday during city council’s work session.

In the overview Martin said the purpose of the 10 cameras which will be placed strategically along state-maintained roads is to assist with investigations and promote safety throughout the city. “Once installed, the cameras will be used as an investigation tool to help fight crime and slow violence in our city.”

This system is a license plate reading tool and not a facial recognition tool, Martin said. 

The cameras make use of an automatic license plate reader system, which City Attorney Geoffrey Davis said the North Carolina General Assembly has allowed under state statute 20-183.31.

“We will be using this to assist in locations and investigations,” Martin said.

In a PowerPoint on the Flock Safety license plate reading system, the company said the equipment, which is used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country, helps officers detect objective data such as what happened at the scene of the crime, give details which might aid in the investigation of a case and deliver leads to the agency.

The police department will receive alerts from the system. The devices detect and capture objective evidence, have machine learning which can uncover investigative leads and real-time alerts which the company says can prepare officers to be effective in the field.

On July 30, the police department amended its policy manual to include the use of automated license plate readers.

“It is used by the Roanoke Rapids Police Department to convert data associated with vehicle license plates for official law enforcement purposes, including identifying stolen or wanted vehicles, stolen license plates, and missing persons,” the document says. “It may also be used to gather information related to active warrants, homeland security, electronic surveillance, suspect interdiction and stolen property recovery.”

In the policy manual the system is to be used in conjunction with any routine patrol or criminal investigation. Reasonable suspicion or probable cause is not required before using the system.

Consideration should be given to using cars equipped with the system to canvass areas around homicides, shootings and other major crimes.

No officer can use the system without first completing training in its use and no operator can access department, state, or federal data unless authorized to do so.

The company’s website stores success stories from use of its system which can viewed at this link

The company’s privacy statement says, “Public servants and law enforcement are rightfully held to high standards when it comes to protecting citizens’ rights.”

It says its suite of products “focus solely on objective, unbiased evidence — the investigative leads your agency needs to accurately and efficiently solve crime.”

Flock Safety customers own all of the footage they collect and the company is committed to never sharing or selling customer data. “Every search conducted in the Flock Safety system requires a specific reason for a traceable audit conducted by law enforcement leadership, constituents or city government.”

Martin, in the conclusion to the presentation, said, “The Roanoke Rapids Police Department’s goal is to provide a safe community by maintaining a proactive approach in the prevention, detection, and investigation of criminal activity.

“This will be accomplished through the highest ethical and professional standards in partnership with the community we serve. This will build positive partnerships with citizens and leaders of our community to both increase legitimacy and enhance public safety.”

The implementation of the system is solely for investigative purposes and all data collected will be retained per the department’s policy, Martin said.