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License plate readers coming to Horry County, police say they'll help investigate crimes

Flock Safety license plate reading camera (Courtesy: Flock Safety)
Flock Safety license plate reading camera (Courtesy: Flock Safety)
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Cameras that can read drivers' license plates will soon be coming to Horry County.

Horry County Police Dept. is partnering with a company called Flock Safety.

They are planning to install 23 license plate reading cameras at major in and out points of Horry County.

According to the vice president at Flock Safety, they're already servicing over 100 groups in South Carolina; most of them being law enforcement agencies.

Some nearby area already using these cameras include:

  • Georgetown County
  • Greenville, SC
  • North Charleston, SC

Cpt. John Harrelson, with Horry County Police Dept., said they will be a major investigative tool for the department by saving time, steps and overall manpower when it comes to stopping and solving crime.

He explained, "For us, this is a tool for, to really be more efficient as an agency; to better use the resources that we have and to better utilize the manpower that we have. We feel like this is really going to be a powerful tool to do that for us."

Cpt. Harrelson said this will serve as an investigative tool for the department.

"To have that powerful tool, that camera that's there 24 seven, monitoring that location to be able to give us a direction to head and an area to focus our resources, instead of having no idea and what direction this person may have gone, truly can't be calculated the value that that would provide for law enforcement," said Harrelson.

The vice president of Flock Safety, Josh Thomas, said this license plate reading system has proven itself successful before.

"Law enforcement agencies have reported to Flock that they are seeing a dramatic crime reduction. And there are some places that see 50, 60, 70 percent reduction in different types of crime," said Thomas.

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In Horry County, every plate number will be scanned and entered into local and national databases referred to as hotspot lists linking cars to various crimes like stolen vehicles, amber and silver alerts and missing persons cases.

When a car's plate is read, if it is in fact associated with a crime, law enforcement agents will receive a real-time alert according to the database.

This can save time, steps and overall manpower when it comes to stopping and solving crimes in the area.

"We're a large jurisdiction," explained Harrelson. "As a county police department, we cover an enormous amount of area, so any way that we can find technology that can help us be more efficient and be in more places at once without having to increase manpower or to be able to better leverage the manpower that we currently have; we're constantly looking for those types of advantages through technology and the LPRs are such a function."

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The readers are not for speeding or parking tickets, but the concern of privacy and being tracked may be raised for residents in the county.

Thomas explained in this situation, it is just as important to understand what data is being collected versus what is not.

"We are not collecting people's information or any sort of biometric data," he said. "There's no facial recognition technology. There's actually no personally identifiable information at all within Flock. Again, it's just license plates and cars."

Thomas said only the back of the car is photographed and the databases are only accessible by qualified law enforcement officials.

Both Thomas and Cpt. Harrelson said the scanned license plates will exist in these databases for 30 days and after that they are permanently deleted.

According to Cpt. Harrelson, the database is very user-friendly and training for officers in the department who will use these systems has already begun.

They're expecting to begin the installation of the 23 cameras across the county in about one month.

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According to Cpt. Harrelson, the database training for officers has already begun and they're expecting to begin the installation of these 23 cameras in about a month.

Cpt. Harrelson said these are not for speeding or parking tickets in the county; as the license plate readers are for furthering ongoing investigations and creating a direction or starting point for officers in Horry County when pursuing crimes.

ABC15 reached out to the county to ask where these cameras will be specifically located, but they are not planning to disclose exact locations.

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ABC15 News will provide an update when the county releases why they are keeping the placements of the cameras discrete.

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