By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
Grove City Council is considering legislation that would give the division of police a new crime-fighting tool.
On Nov. 20, the council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance that would appropriate $150,429 from drug law enforcement fund to contract with Flock Safety, which uses license plate reader technology to collect visual evidence across the city that would help law enforcement solve and prevent crime. According to the legislation, the agreement will provide a connected platform for license plate readers with live video and audio detection integrated with the city’s computer-aided dispatch system.
“We hope to see a reduction in crime and keep citizens safe,” said Lt. Justin Gallo, with the Grove City Division of Police.
Flock Safety created a public operating system to enable neighborhoods, businesses, and law enforcement to work together to collect situational evidence across the city.
According to Gallo, cameras would be placed throughout the city, especially in high-traffic areas. These cameras take pictures of vehicles and license plates. This could be helpful for example, if a car is stolen in Columbus. That vehicle information is entered into a national database. If that car comes into Grove City, the Flock System would recognize it as a stolen vehicle and then alert police.
“Often those who steal a car will use that vehicle to commit more crime,” said Gallo. “This system allows us to put a response together before they commit more crime in our city.”
The lieutenant said this system helped police apprehend a suspect that assaulted two Grove City officers. Last year, two officers were trying to arrest a suspect wanted for several outstanding warrants. The suspect ended up reportedly putting his car in reverse then driving off, dragging the officers. A short time later, the vehicle was spotted by the Flock System in Reynoldsburg where officers were able to apprehend the suspect. Gallo said both officers have recovered and are back on the job.
“This situation shined a light on the value (of this system) to law enforcement,” said Gallo.
If council approves this legislation, Grove City will join Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Grandview Heights, Hilliard, Worthington, Westerville, and Whitehall as central Ohio areas that use the Flock System. Pataskala, Newark, Health, and Marysville also utilize the program.
When asked how the city would balance this technology with privacy concerns, Gallo said there is no facial recognition system and there is a 30-day retention so law enforcement would only pull information for a crime in progress or if it were part of an investigation.
The city was awarded a $246,429 grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services to help fund this program. If approved by the council, the term of the contract would be for two years of service.