Breaking News
More () »

'A child abduction that was thwarted:' Greensboro police say license plate cameras have been a success

The Greensboro Police Department is leasing 15 more license plate-reading cameras from Flock Safety. Ten cameras are already in the city.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Greensboro Police Department said license plate-reading cameras installed throughout the city are helping them solve crimes more efficiently, and now the department is adding more of the devices to city streets. 

GPD finished installing 10 of the license plate-reading cameras, made by Flock Safety, at the end of 2021. Now, the department will be leasing 15 more of the devices. The 15 new cameras should be installed by the end of 2022. 

How do the cameras help?

"(They've helped police find) multiple stolen cars," said Lt. Ryan Todd, with the Greensboro Police Department. "(There was) a child abduction that was thwarted, a lot of violent crime that these have been useful for helping to identify vehicles used in those violent crimes, so pretty immediately these became useful tools for investigators."

How do the cameras work?

The cameras are motion activated and take photos of the back of a vehicle, specifically a license plate. The devices also work with national and state databases to alert law enforcement if they detect something like a stolen vehicle or a wanted offender. The data is encrypted and only stored for 30 days.

How will the cameras be used?

"These cameras are only used for the purposes of crime-solving," said Holly Beilin, a spokesperson for Flock Safety. "They are not video cameras, they are also not utilizing any facial recognition. They are actually not capturing people at all. So there’s no capability within the system to search for an individual person, to search by gender, race, or any other identifying characteristics. They are not capturing personally identifiable information."

RELATED: Newly installed license plate cameras help Greensboro police make arrest in Circle K robbery

Here's how it looks when a Flock camera reads a license plate:

Credit: Greensboro Police Department
An example of a photo taken on a Flock security camera in Greensboro.

Police said they also need a specific reason related to an investigation to search the data, and the use of the system is audited. 

"These cameras are being paid for by taxpayer dollars and we want to make sure that there is an additional layer of oversight in the system," said Beilin. "So when...any officer uses the system to perform a search, so let’s say they’re doing a search on an assault case, there is a code, there’s a search justification reason in that search interface and they have to enter that, otherwise the search simply cannot be performed."

Cutting down traffic stops

Flock Safety said they've seen the number of traffic stops go down with the implementation of these cameras in about 2,000 communities across the U.S.

"We can more actively look for where a criminal is going, where the suspect is going in (a certain) case, and not have to interact with the public in a negative way over a traffic stop or a crime that they weren’t involved in," said Lt. Todd.

RELATED: License plate cameras installed around Greensboro to help fight crime

Before You Leave, Check This Out