Warren police credit license plate readers with helping solve rapes, murders, other violent crimes

After installing license plate readers around the city nearly a year ago, Warren police are praising the technology.

The Flock cameras help police find suspect vehicles.

"I just saw a car speeding away, it's a Dodge, white, with a bumper sticker," Sgt. Brandon Roy said. 

That description is enough information, as the actual plate number isn't needed to add a vehicle to the Flock Safety Camera System, Roy said.

"It will search for any plate we tell it to look for," he said.

The cameras create a database of cars that pass them in Warren. Police say the 22 readers have helped them solve crimes.

"There's more crime solved with this system than ever before," said Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer.

Dwyer said the license plate readers have helped solve murders, burglaries, robberies, rapes, and more. While a rape doesn't seem like a likely crime to be solved with a license plate reader, but they have led police to suspects.

"We captured the suspect vehicle fleeing the scene on a Flock camera," Roy said. 

Criticisms about license plate readers include stereotyping fears, worries about how data is being stored, and concerns about the surveillance of innocent people.

Worries about reader misuse even led to the American Civil Liberties Union proposing guidelines that law enforcement agencies should follow if they choose to implement the technology. 

"We don't scan facial recognition. It has nothing to do with immigration. It's strictly for those who are committing violent crimes as I've reported to you," Dwyer said. 

Flock cameras only capture license plates and vehicle characteristics, not people or faces. 

Warren Police lease each flock camera for $,2500 a year – about 1% of the overall police budget .They are solar-powered, with a battery backup

Warren works with other cities that have Flock technology.

"We're sharing this information with a lot of different cities, such as Dearborn, Detroit, Ecorse, New Baltimore, Port Huron," Dwyer said.