The Sandy Springs Police Department wants to expand its current license-plate reading technology by placing nearly 100 license-plate reader cameras around the city at a cost of just under $40,000 per month.
SSPD currently has two LPR cameras operating at undisclosed locations in the city and has access to footage from cameras installed in private neighborhoods by HOAs, but the department wants to increase its coverage by installing 99 cameras in the city for a $39,852.02 monthly fee.
“At the beginning of this year, one of our priorities was leveraging technology to reduce crime,” Deputy Chief of Police Keith Zgonc said at an Oct. 15 City Council work session.
The council will vote on the proposal at its Nov. 5 meeting, according to city documents. The department did not respond to requests for comment about the timeline for the cameras to be installed.
The cameras would be installed in partnership with a Georgia Power program known as SiteView. It allows customers to have a security camera system installed on the utility poles and streetlights for a monthly fee. All cameras are owned, installed and maintained by Georgia Power, while the customer controls and maintains the data.
The high-speed, computer-controlled cameras capture all license plate numbers that come into view, along with the location, date and time. The data includes photographs of a vehicle and sometimes its driver and passengers. The data is uploaded to a central server to be accessed by officers.
Police would use the cameras to receive leads and collaborate with neighboring cities to share data, solve cases and ultimately, reduce crime, Zgonc said.
SSPD said it has planned camera placement and plans to include locations marked as high-crime but it would not provide the planned locations.
“We plan on locating the cameras at various entry points to the city, placing them primarily along the primary routes through the city,” Zgonc said in a written statement.
Georgia Power’s pilot program started in 2017 in Brookhaven. In July, Dunwoody purchased 16 LPR cameras to be placed primarily in the Perimeter Center area.
SSPD proposes to use a mix of two kinds of cameras: 57 cameras for $32,331.08 a month from Genetec, a national surveillance company, which have a higher resolution but are more expensive and 42 for $7,520.94 a month from Flock, based in Atlanta, which are cheaper but have a lower resolution.
In a pilot project by SSPD, the department purchased and installed two Flock cameras in June that were put in undisclosed locations, according to SSPD spokesperson Sgt. Sam Worsham.
The department also purchased an additional 12 in September, but they have not been installed yet, Worsham said. The current cost is $2,000 per year per camera and the total cost is around $28,000 for a year, Worsham said.
The department did not respond to comment requests about how many cameras are currently up and running in the city.
According to the department, as of June 21 from when the cameras were installed, SSPD has made a total of 97 charges with the use of LPR technology, including 33 misdemeanors and 65 felonies. Some of the charges included larceny from a vehicle, identity fraud, possession of a stolen vehicle, felony warrants and robbery. It is unclear how many total charges were made city-wide in that amount of time.
Some neighborhood associations in Sandy Springs have contracted with Flock to install their own personal security cameras and through the contract, allow the city to access the data and footage, which has helped with many of the LPR-related charges, Zgonc said.
At the Oct. 15 meeting, District 3 Councilmember Chris Burnett asked whether more homeowner associations should consider installing private cameras to catch people committing minor traffic violations in their neighborhoods.
City Attorney Dan Lee said the tag readers are to be used more for investigate processes and not to witness a criminal case because the cameras are not considered a legally reliable witness.
“Just as [with] a camera for running red lights or speeding tickets, you have to have someone to confirm what is shown in the photograph or in the license reader, so it is not a good application for it,” Lee said.
“The challenge is, you can see the tag, [but] what you cannot see is who is actually behind the wheel,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. “You cannot charge the car. You have to charge the individual.”
District 1 City Councilmember John Paulson asked whether the locations for the systems have been chosen so that neighborhood associations can decide if they will want to invest in their own cameras or rely on the police system.
“We have worked on locations, but we do not have everything figured out exactly yet,” Zgonc said at the meeting.