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Neighborhoods could implement license plate-reading cameras

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The Germantown Police Department is rolling out a new and enhanced neighborhood watch program, a three-pronged system that will include partnerships with neighborhood organizations, a home security camera registry and license plate-reading cameras around the city.

The home security camera registration will be voluntary and will not give police access to the cameras without permission from the device owner.

GPD has also entered an agreement with Atlanta-based Flock Safety to place license plate-reading cameras around Germantown. The camera footage will not be monitored constantly.

When a license plate is captured that matches the license plate of a stolen vehicle, a vehicle being sought in connection with a crime or a vehicle connected to an Amber or Silver alert, which are issued for missing children and missing seniors or persons with mental disabilities, respectively, the system will send a notification to officers.

The police will have to follow standard procedure before any vehicles can be apprehended or persons arrested.

They join other cities like Memphis and others who have been using cameras for some time.

Flock Safety is currently in Collierville, Lakeland, Bartlett, Covington, Memphis and Horn Lake. In addition, Flock Safety is in more than 30 neighborhoods in the Memphis metro area.

These cameras do not capture faces but do capture the make, model, color, license plate number of a vehicle, as well as other details like how many times it has passed a camera in the past 30 days.

The camera program in Germantown is currently in a pilot phase, but GPD has already utilized the system to recover a stolen car.

In the future, the department hopes to place more cameras around the city and integrate its camera system with those in nearby cities, so agencies can share information more efficiently.

The home camera registry system is also intended to make Germantown’s police force more efficient. GPD will roll out an online form this week that residents can fill out which will include their name, address, contact information and details about how many home security cameras they have and what areas they cover.

The registry will help police locate potential sources of video more quickly after a crime has been reported. The police department has already talked to some of the city’s neighborhood organizations about the Germantown Watch program and they have gotten positive feedback.

That buy-in is essential to GPD because even with the addition of new technology, police work still requires interaction with the community.

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