The Havenwoods Business Improvement District has partnered with the Milwaukee Police Department, Flock Safety and Alderwoman Chantia Lewis to bring automated license plate reading cameras to the 9th District.
The groups made the announcement in early May.
According to Flock Safety, the cameras capture computer-readable images of license plates, allowing law enforcement agencies to compare plate numbers against those of stolen cars or cars driven by people suspected of being involved in criminal activities.
The 9th District encompasses the area from 43rd Street and Silver Spring Drive to 124th Street and County Line Road. Flock Safety is a public safety operating system that partners with neighborhoods, businesses, law enforcement and elected officials to provide technology that helps combat crime.
“This technology would be able to give MPD a sense of where a stolen car may be,” said Lewis. “This is a fantastic example of a public-private partnership that can help improve the quality of life in our community.”
This partnership, aimed at making the community safer, has been on the table for years but was initially denied by the state due to worries about privacy, according to Lewis.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a report in March expressing concerns that Flock Safety is creating a vast national surveillance network. Flock Safety responds by directing observers to what, precisely, is being photographed.
“This technology is not recording your speed or checking your registration,” said Holly Beilin, the communications director for Flock Safety. “It has no ability to do any of that. It is genuinely used to solve crime.”
“It’s only taking photos of the back license plate,” Lewis added. “Photos are deleted after 30 days.”
A 2011 study by the Police Executive Research Forum concluded that ALPRs – automatic license plate reading cameras – used by the Mesa Police Department in Arizona enhanced the productivity of the auto theft unit, resulting in “nearly three times as many ‘hits’ for stolen vehicles and twice as many vehicle recoveries.”
The Police Executive Research Forum is an independent research organization that focuses on critical issues in policing, according to its website.
There were 10,479 vehicles stolen in 2021 in Milwaukee, a 132% increase from the 4,510 vehicle thefts in 2020, the Milwaukee Police Department has reported.