The Akron City Council recently approved the installation of 145 license plate reading cameras in an effort to fight crime across the city.
The cameras will be used in police investigations to identify stolen cars, crime suspects and more using artificial intelligence. The cameras do not use facial recognition.
The city plans to spend just over $400,000 on cameras, AI software, storage and other equipment. They will be installed throughout the city with a focus on high-crime areas, including the off-campus housing area south of the University of Akron campus, according to the ordinance sponsored by Ward 7’s Donnie Kammer. .
The cameras, provided by Georgia-based security firm Flock Safety, are already being used in northeast Ohio to help solve crimes.
Several council members expressed privacy concerns before the ordinance passed, which received a unanimous vote with one abstention from Ward 4’s Russ Neal, who argued for greater public participation.
“I understand the reason for that,” Neal said at Monday’s board meeting. “Personally, I’m willing to put aside my ‘Big Brother’ fears because of all that’s going on, but out of respect for my constituents who have called me with great concern, I would like them to have their say.”
The discussion begins around 1:11:00 in the video below:
In response to Neal’s concerns, Council Speaker Margo Sommerville said Police Chief Steve Mylett is committed to raising awareness about the cameras in the community.
“This is a city-wide public safety project,” Kammer said, calling the cameras “necessary.” “I think it will help us catch and prosecute any suspects involved in criminal activity.”
The cameras, according to Akron Police, will only be used for their intended purpose and not for speed enforcement.
Even with some privacy concerns, council members were adamant about implementing measures to reduce crime in the city as gun violence and homicides continue.
“I watch young people in the neighborhood that I represent die,” said Tara Mosley of Ward 5. “I watch old people lying on the ground from gunfire. once, but twice by shots, so I don’t apologize for my vote.”
Journalist Abbey Marshall is a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Learn more at reportforamerica.org. Contact her at [email protected]