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Tell City police adopts new camera surveillance system

Equipment meant to provide real-time notifications on emergency alerts, stolen vehicles, other crimes
Published: Aug. 7, 2021 at 3:01 PM CDT
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TELL CITY, Ind. (WFIE) - The Tell City Police Department is testing out a new tool focused on keeping the roads safer.

Drivers may or may not notice some new cameras around town, but that’s the point.

“The camera does not gather personal information from the driver,” Tell City Police Chief Derrick Lawalin said. “All it does is take a picture of the license plate.”

Chief Lawalin is talking about the new Flock Safety equipment throughout the county.

This equipment is not meant to catch people for minor offenses like speeding or texting and driving. Instead, its purpose is for more serious crimes.

“We have a layer of protection for them,” Chief Lawalin said. “That in the event that we have perhaps an Amber Alert or a violent offender whose license plate has been entered into the network, that we’re going to get real-time notifications that the vehicle has crossed over one of those cameras.”

At no cost to taxpayers and completely funded by an anonymous donor, police say they are just trying to be proactive.

“When people understand the focus of it, they’re going to see that this is a great law enforcement tool that may very well help them on their worse days,” Chief Lawalin said. “So that’s what we do it for, and we take pride in being able to solve crimes and making our citizens feel safe. We certainly don’t want them to feel compromised.”

In a quick breakdown to demonstrate how the system works, Chief Lawalin was able to find our 14 News vehicle driving into Tell City when we arrived on Saturday.

Since our license plate isn’t flagged, the police chief had to use some search options to find it. The only thing needed was the make of the car.

“We know it’s a Ford, we know it’s white, we would search,” Chief Lawalin said. “We would get all Fords that are white from that time frame.”

The only pictures captured are images of the license plate. Meanwhile, no photos of the driver’s face were taken.

So what happens to all those pictures captured by the system?

“It’s on a cloud just like many other software, or body cameras as well,” Chief Lawalin said. “That cloud is effective for so long and it just gets looped over. I’m not aware of any archive being able to recover anything prior to that period of time.”

The police chief says the program is completely paid for the first year.

If officials see success with the new safety system, they are hoping to get sponsors to keep the cameras up for years to come, without affecting taxpayers.

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