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License plate reading cameras helping Wichita police with crime investigations

Published: May. 11, 2021 at 12:28 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita police are using another pair of eyes, looking for cars linked to crimes. After testing them out late last year, the Wichita Police Department has more than 100 new Flock Safety License Plate Reading Cameras.

The impact from the tool called has been swift and substantial, the department said.

“One point six million dollars in recovered vehicles, 174 stolen vehicles recovered, 26 firearms,” said Wichita Police Lt. Cassey Slaughter.

The impact also includes nearly 200 arrests.

“We’ve caught a kidnapping suspect and recovered the victim thanks to Flock. We’ve used Flock on multiple homicide cases,” Slaughter said.

While the WPD has used license plate readers since 2014, the department is expanding that program. After a 90-day test period, the Wichita City Council last month, approved the purchase of 110 cameras, costing $2,500 each.

“They can search vehicles by build, make and color. So if we don’t have a tag number or if we have a partial tag number, we can put that in” Slaughter said.

The readers are being deployed across the city with a specific focus in high-crime areas. Wichita police said they have policies in place, governing the use of the license plate reading cameras that are constantly being reviewed. That includes things like training for police officers, how police can use the data and the deletion of data every 30 days unless it’s tied to a specific, ongoing case.

“...Have to write a case number typically into the reach for action or search box. Otherwise, we can’t access any license plate reader data at all,” Slaughter explained.

Defense Attorney Charles O’Hara said this is one of many technologies used by police that raise concerns for him.

“Device that they can put in a car called a Stingray. What it does is it allows them to actually read the text messages on your phone at times,” said O’Hara.

He said what it comes down to is a balance between what is needed for law and order and individual privacy.

“The scary things are that happens is with this technology is that balancing seems going further and further towards the government,” O’Hara said.

He said while courts and laws have put in place limits to how police can use tech and what they can access, people will have to think before they share more information with the government.

“We’re probably going to need more with this, and I think people really need to think before they allow the government to know everything they’re doing all the time.”

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