LOCAL NEWS

Trial run of license plate-reading cameras in Tooele met with mixed reactions

Oct 6, 2022, 8:54 AM
(KSL TV)...
(KSL TV)
(KSL TV)

TOOELE, Utah — Sophisticated license plate-reading surveillance cameras have been making their debut in the city on a trial basis, but already they’ve proven polarizing to residents as police have worked to clarify exactly how and under what circumstances they will be used.

According to Lt. Jeremy Hansen with the Tooele City Police Department, the city recently installed 10 Flock Safety cameras in various neighborhoods.

Currently, Hansen said, the city is looking at purchasing four cameras at a price tag of about $15,000 with the potential for a fifth camera being funded by some local businesses.

“There’s only five officers per shift and that includes one sergeant, so you have four patrolmen,” Hansen said. “It’s really hard for us to be everywhere in this city all at once with five officers, so we’re hoping the system can be an ‘eyes-and-ears’ for us and alert us to stolen vehicles, vehicles that we’re looking for in relation to violent felonies. But besides that, it can also alert us to missing and endangered people, welfare checks, silver alerts and Amber Alerts, so it encompasses and does a lot of things we’re really hoping helps Tooele City and (its) residents.”

Hansen said the cameras aren’t monitored live, 24/7. Instead, he said officers log in at the beginning of the shift and if there are alerts about, say, stolen vehicles or vehicles related to missing and endangered cases, the officers receive text or email alerts.

According to police, officers can also search the system for vehicle descriptions and plate numbers, but the officers must have a legitimate law enforcement purpose and a case number to do so.

“You can’t see if the driver is male or female, you’re not looking into the interior of the car — that’s not the purpose of this,” Hansen said. “We’re not trying to spy on our residents and see what they’re doing.”

Hansen said he believed roughly 1,500 other law enforcement agencies in the country were using the system, as were some other agencies in Utah.

“This is simply to come up with the license plate and the description of the vehicle,” Hansen outlined.

Hansen said the city and police department were evaluating the use and effectiveness of the system for about a month’s timeframe.

“We understand that this is taxpayer money,” Hansen said. “We hope that it is a force multiplier for us.”

Comments were mixed on the police department’s Facebook post about the new technology.

Residents were as well when KSL TV interviewed them on Wednesday evening.

“I just don’t like it,” said Linda Thorpe. “I don’t like anything that’s encroaching on our privacy.”

Darcee Oliva said she saw value in the cameras.

“I think it’s great that they have the technology to be able to find more stolen vehicles, more suspects,” she said.

KSL 5 TV Live

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Trial run of license plate-reading cameras in Tooele met with mixed reactions