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The Douglas County Sheriff's Office wants to install license plate readers: How would it work?

Posted at 7:26 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-29 20:32:11-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Earlier this month 3 News Now reported on Bellevue's installation of license plate scanners. Now, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office is hoping to do something similar, but the ACLU of Nebraska said they are concerned.

"The fact that law enforcement is using this, as part of their regular job duties and collecting this information, assisting a company collecting this information — that's simply a concern that we have," said Spike Eickholt, lobbyist for the ACLU of Nebraska.

The DCSO said they plan to use these cameras in situations like Amber Alerts, stolen vehicles, catalytic converter theft and other criminal situations. They plan to work with Flock Safety.

We asked the company, how does it work?

"These are cameras that are motion activated, they are not video cameras. So they are not capturing video at all times. They are motion activated by a vehicle passing by the camera and they turn on and they take a clear picture of the back of the vehicle, so they are snapping a picture of the license plate," said Holly Beilin, head of PR for Flock Safety.

Beilin said these are not running all the time and you can't see the driver. But, she said, they have helped solve crimes nationally like Amber Alerts.

"The cameras integrate with these lists and when a stolen vehicle, a known wanted offender or a missing child passes the camera, then that camera sends an alert to local law enforcement in real-time," Beilin said.

She said this data is held for 30 days and then deleted from the server.

"The Sheriff's Office is going to be the full owner of the data. We can never sell it or share it because we don't own it. We simply store it in cloud servers and that's all part of the price and the package," Beilin said.

And that price is $2,500 per camera, per year. The ACLU said they will encourage city council not to adopt the agreement.

But, Eickholt said, "If they are going to adopt that, then at least at a minimum they should provide that it be done consistent with the state law and protects people's privacy and protects the people of Omaha's privacy."

The Sheriff's Office told us that they're already using license plate readers in some parts of the county. They expect to put up a total of 25 but there is no timeline as to when that might happen.

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