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Middletown Police Department to install license plate reader cameras

The city of Middletown will be installing 26 automatic license plate readers throughout the city.
Flock Safety
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The city of Middletown will be installing 26 automatic license plate readers throughout the city.

Middletown joined a growing list of cities in Ohio that are installing automatic license plate readers this month. The city announced the police department will be installing 26 cameras throughout the city.

The cameras will be installed on poles at street intersections. They automatically capture license plate numbers, along with the make, model, year, and color of the car. Police said the cameras will them help prevent crime and find suspects much faster.

However, advocacy groups have voiced concerns about the effectiveness of ALPR when compared to its cost for taxpayers, and if the technology violates people's privacy. Specifically, when it comes to privacy, questions have been raised about how the data ALPR collect will be handled by police departments and how unauthorized immigrants would be protected.

Those concerns came up from community members this month at a commission meeting where the City of Dayton decided to move forward with plans to put license plate readers in some of its neighborhoods.

Chief of Police David Birk said he has heard a few concerns about the technology in Middletown. But he said the cameras will help his understaffed department be more efficient as numbers for new recruits keep declining.

“We're shorthanded. We had 93 cops when I started and now I'm down to 67 officers," Birk said. “ So we have to work smarter, not harder, and this is just a tool that gives us the ability to get information out quickly so we can communicate with other departments.”

The city will be allocating part of the funds to purchase the cameras from a $33,000 grant it received from the state's $58 million Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program.

The data the cameras collect will be stored in a central server for up to 30 days, although it can be downloaded if it serves as a lead for a crime, according to Birk.

“We're just looking to keep the community safe from more serious, violent offenses and to locate Amber Alerts and missing people,” he said.

The Middletown Police department plans to hold monthly meetings with community members to review ALPR data and get their input. The cameras are planned be installed in mid-August.

Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Alejandro Figueroa covers food insecurity and the business of food for WYSO through Report for America — a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Alejandro particularly covers the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in Southwest Ohio communities, and what local government and nonprofits are doing to address it. He also covers rural and urban farming