EVANSVILLE — Automatic license plate-reading cameras operated by the Evansville Police Department are now installed and operating throughout the city, but the department thus far has not officially disclosed their locations.

The Courier & Press created a map with locations for 25 out of the 55 cameras installed by the EPD, and we want to enlist our readers to help find the remaining 30.

The cameras, manufactured by Atlanta-based Flock Safety, were purchased by the EPD in February through a $125,000 state grant. The Evansville City Council unanimously approved a money transfer in February to hasten the purchase and installation of the cameras, according to public records. 

In a Facebook post, the EPD said Flock Safety cameras can reduce crime in surrounding areas by at least 70%. And, the department said the cameras already played a role in aiding the capture of escaped Alabama inmate Casey White and have helped solve a local kidnapping.

The Courier & Press asked for a list of camera locations, but Evansville Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Anna Gray said the department would not disclose locations due to vandalism fears. 

“We don’t want to say where they are because people may try to shoot at them," Gray said. "CenterPoint (utility company) gets calls everyday to repair lights that got shot out.”

In March, police in Peoria, Illinois, also declined to publicly disclose where they placed the department's newly acquired Flock Safety cameras, citing state and federal laws that prohibit disclosing the location of police surveillance cameras.

However, shortly after initially denying the newspaper's request for camera locations, the Peoria Police Department reversed course and disclosed the camera locations after reviewing previous rulings from the Illinois Attorney General's Office that determined information about police surveillance cameras was − according to Illinois state law − public record.

Indiana Public Access Counselor Luke Britt, who issues guidance on Indiana's Access to Public Records Act, told the Courier & Press he could not determine whether the EPD had to disclose the location of Flock Safety cameras in response to open records requests without conducting a thorough review of past rulings.

What Flock Safety cameras can, and can't, do

The above map lists locations for 25 of the EPD's 55 Flock Safety cameras. While many people believe automatic license plate-reading cameras check for speed and traffic violations, Flock Safety cameras cannot log a vehicle's speed and are not used to investigate minor traffic violations, according to the company.

In a Facebook post, the EPD also said camera footage cannot be used to "give officers probable cause to write a traffic citation."

Instead, the cameras use artificial intelligence to scan a passing vehicle's license plate, and Flock Safety's advanced algorithm can detect a vehicle's make, model, color and aftermarket alterations, according to company records.

Police officers and detectives can then use an online interface to search a vehicle's movements in connection with a specific criminal case. Flock Safety spokeswoman Holly Beilin told the Courier & Press police are required to enter a case number before the application allows them to trace a vehicle's movements.

Flock Safety cameras can be synced with federal crime databases and "hotlists" setup by local departments, allowing police to be notified in near real time when a wanted vehicle drives past a camera.

And, to ease privacy concerns, Beilin said all Flock camera footage is deleted on a rolling, 30-day basis. Beilin also said Flock Safety's system has more safeguards to help prevent cases of mistaken identity - where a vehicle is wrongly thought to be connected to a crime - then other automatic license plate reading cameras.

Have you seen a camera not listed in our map?

You can use the Google Form embedded below to submit locations for additional Flock Safety cameras. Upon review, the Courier & Press will add camera locations submitted through this form to the publicly available map.

Flock cameras are small, black devices typically installed on existing telephone and power poles or on stand-alone posts. The cameras also feature an adjoining solar panel.

© 2022 courierpress.com, All rights reserved.