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Avondale Estates City Commission considering proposal for automated license plate readers

Avondale Estates Crime and public safety Trending

Avondale Estates City Commission considering proposal for automated license plate readers

Avondale Estates City Manager Patrick Bryant, Mayor Jonathan Elmore, Commissioners Lisa Shortell, Graham Reiney, Mike Smith and Lionel Laratte discussed a proposal to install automated license plate readers during a work session on Jan. 10 at City Hall. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Avondale Estates, GA — The Avondale Estates City Commission, at its Jan. 10 work session, discussed a proposal to install 10 automated license plate readers within the city.

If the city commission approves the contract with Flock Safety, the system would send alerts to officers of wanted persons, stolen vehicles, and individuals and vehicles of interest involved in crimes.

“The main thing we provide is the license plate look-up and the vehicle description,” said Robert Lacey with Flock. “One thing Flock is not doing is we’re not applying any facial recognition or any personal look-up.”

The cameras will not act as red light or speed cameras and will not issue citations, Police Chief Harry Hess told Decaturish.

“They are solely automated license plate readers that send data up to a server that’s in turn run through [the Georgia Crime Information Center] and [National Crime Information Center] and then receive any notifications on our cameras, and our cameras only,” Hess said.

The cameras would be installed on the side of the roads and would be pointed downward to capture the back of vehicles. The cameras would take photos of vehicles and license plates and run the license plate through national and state crime databases. After 30 days, all photos are erased in the system if they are not being used in an investigation.

“Flock Cameras have been installed by most municipal governments within the Atlanta metropolitan area in order to help assist law enforcement agencies with locating missing persons, to help law enforcement agencies assist with the recovery of stolen vehicles, and to assist law enforcement agencies with closing cases through the provision of evidence,” City Manager Patrick Bryant said.

Cities surrounding Avondale Estates, including Clarkston and Decatur, have installed Flock cameras, and Avondale has used DeKalb County and Fulton County cameras to help locate missing persons, Bryant added.

Most of the cameras would be placed along College Avenue/North Avondale Road.

“The design usually is to create a border strategy, so you want to know who is coming into your jurisdiction. It is usually in heavily trafficked areas, inbound and outbound to the city, and then it’s also taking into consideration other areas that border [the city],” Lacey said.

The city is not planning to install more than 10 cameras or have phase two of the project.

“What we’re trying to do is cover ingress and egress points and major thoroughfares in the city so we can assist in our own investigations or other agencies in the performance of their investigations for stolen vehicles, missing persons, and persons who have committed crimes and are other active investigation for those crimes and can’t be located,” Bryant said.

Hess said during the work session that the cameras are an investigative tool and the police department will develop policies around using the cameras. The officers will be trained on the cameras and software.

“The alert itself is not probable cause to stop a vehicle,” Hess said. “We have to locate that vehicle, be with that vehicle, and then we also have to additionally rerun that vehicle through GCIC, NCIC before taking action.”

He added that it’s a digital force multiplier, and it would give the police department “more eyes out there” they can use to help with investigations.

The contract would be for two years for 10 cameras. It would cost $63,250 for the two years, and the city would use APRA funds to cover the cost. The city commission will consider the contract at its next regular meeting.

In other business:

– Mayor Jonathan Elmore and Commissioners Mike Smith and Graham Reiney were sworn in.

The city also now has a new deputy police chief. Deputy Police Chief Jerry Branch was sworn in on Wednesday night as well and received his badge. Branch comes to Avondale after serving in Lake City, Ga., for 18 years.

In 2005, Branch joined the Lake City Police Department, obtained the rank of sergeant and worked as the Office of Professional Standards and Training commander, according to a press release from the city.

“I am excited to welcome Deputy Chief Branch to the Avondale Estates Police Department. The wealth of experience he brings will be a real asset to the department as we continue focusing on training, community policing and building leaders in the force,” Police Chief Harry Hess said in the press release. “I look forward to working hand in hand with Branch to build on the progress we have made in these areas.”

He is a state certification manager and assessor. He has instruction certifications in general instruction, firearms, taser, speed detection, and use of force.

In Avondale, Branch is responsible for directing and supervising the department’s patrol operations and internal affairs and serves as the primary contact for all local, state and federal emergency action incidents.

“I look forward to working with the city manager, mayor, city council, the police department and most importantly the community and helping Avondale Estates reach new heights,” Branch said in the press release.

Avondale Estates Police Chief Harry Hess (left) gives Jerry Branch (right) a badge as he was sworn in to serve as deputy police chief on Jan. 10 at City Hall. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

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