The Jeffco Sheriff’s Office plans to install up to 25 license-plate-reading cameras in unincorporated parts of the county to identify stolen vehicles and those connected to Amber Alerts and other criminal cases.
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This will be part of a free one-year pilot program with Flock Group Inc., which offers automatic license plate reader technology to law enforcement. These cameras would be installed throughout Jeffco, including in unincorporated South Jeffco, in the West Pleasant View and Applewood areas between Golden and Arvada, and the Genesee and Evergreen areas.
If JCSO wants to continue the program after a year, costs would be factored into future department budgets, Patrol Division Chief Scott Pocsik described during a Sept. 13 briefing with the county commissioners.
The commissioners gave their approval for JCSO to move forward with the pilot program’s license agreement, which the Board of County Commissioners will need to approve in a future meeting.
Pocsik described how several law enforcement agencies around the Denver metro area are using these cameras already or will be soon. Golden Police Department, for instance, has had great success with theirs over the last year or so, he explained.
Homeowner associations, such as one on Lookout Mountain, have been installing them too.
The cameras take a picture of each license plate and then run it against those entered in a national database for stolen vehicles and the like. If there’s a match, JCSO is alerted immediately.
“Based on that alert, we’d be able to respond to that area in a more tactical way,” Pocsik told the commissioners. “ … The best case would be to stop that vehicle at our advantage. We want to avoid a pursuit.”
Considering the massive increase in stolen vehicles in and around Jeffco, Pocsik said these cameras will be good tools for JCSO. He added that it can also be used to identify suspect vehicles based on a basic description — such as blue Honda Civic with a sticker on the driver’s side — and can be an investigative tool in that respect.
“If we get a description of a vehicle used in the crime, we can put that information into the system, and it’ll cross (reference) against vehicles that have passed by our cameras,” he continued.
Commissioners Lesley Dahlkemper and Andy Kerr wondered whether there were any privacy issues related to the cameras, or whether they could be used to identify vehicles with expired license plates or other minor infractions, as red-light cameras do.
Pocsik confirmed the data is housed on a government server only for 30 days and then automatically deleted. JCSO would own the data and might share information with other law enforcement agencies in specific cases, but would never share it with the private sector, he said.
He also described how JCSO has been using license-plate-reading cameras in patrol vehicles for 20-plus years without major concerns. The license plate must be entered into the national database for JCSO to receive any alerts, so expired license plates wouldn’t qualify.
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