FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Right now, Fort Worth police officers are using new technology to track down violent criminals.
The department has placed 63 solar-powered, license plate-reading cameras in high-crime areas throughout the city, and the system has already led to dozens of arrests.
“They’re not your typically cameras where they’re just sitting there watching,” said Sgt. Dalton Webb, who oversees the program for the Fort Worth Police Department.
The cameras run license plates through a database, and within seconds, the system alerts officers if a car is stolen or belongs to someone who’s wanted for a felony.
Since the network of cameras was installed about three months ago, it’s helped police make 166 arrests – including two murder suspects, more than 100 car thieves and dozens of people wanted for violent crimes.
“It has been so hugely successful, unlike anything we’ve seen before,” Sgt. Webb said. “We’ve recovered 118 vehicles. We’ve seized 14 guns off the street. About $1.5 million worth of vehicles recovered that were stolen.”
The cameras collect information 24/7, but the department will often dedicate a group of officers to follow the hits during a set time.
“They go to these areas where the cameras are and just wait for them to go off,” said Sgt. Webb.
Officers monitoring the system in the Real Time Crime Center will then send the details to officers in the field.
“I’ve been here seven years, and in those seven years, this if the first huge upper hand we’ve had as law enforcement over the criminals,” said officer Cory Carpenter. “It’s a game changer for sure.”
The FWPD knows these types of systems can be controversial and says it takes citizens’ privacy concerns seriously.
There are strict protocols in place to run searches on the system and frequent audits.
Atlanta-based company Flock Security says all footage is deleted after 30 days and the data is never shared with third parties.
“If I were a citizen living in Fort Worth, I’d say okay this is a transparent system, focused on objective information, it’s got a limited data retention, and it’s actually helping,” said Garrett Langley, the CEO of Flock Safety.
Langley says more than 1,000 cities across the county currently use Flock Safety cameras, including Grand Prairie, Lewisville, and Carrollton.
Neighborhoods and apartment complexes can also buy the cameras and share data with the police.
FWPD currently pays Flock Safety $2,000 per camera, per year.
The department hopes to eventually expand the program and deploy even more cameras throughout the city.