Virginia Beach installs controversial license plate readers

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Coming to an intersection near you: a crime fighting device that doesn’t blink, even in the face of concerns about civil liberties.

Virginia Beach has installed 19 automated license plate readers with six more to follow. The cameras can scan across several lanes of traffic, capturing tag information 24/7.

Previously: Cameras vs. criminals: Local police departments using technology to solve crime

What’s new is that these are stationary. The Virginia Beach Police Department has had mobile readers in marked police cars for the past 14 months, but the fixed readers are more effective and able to scan more vehicles simultaneously.

Chief Paul Neudigate says their watchful eyes are solving crimes, and begins listing off several recently solved cases, including aggravated assaults, robberies and a home invasion, even a combined rape/robbery.

The cameras store the data in a cloud system connected to Atlanta-based Flock Safety.

“After 30 days, the data is purged unless we tag it as part of an ongoing criminal case,” Neudigate said.

Automated license plate readers: How does it all work?

The company said they’re in use in more than 4,000 communities — making Virginia Beach now connected with all of those other departments.

“This is very much a regional approach,” Neudigate said, “because we have access to the number of cameras that they have in other jurisdictions.”

Previously: Chesapeake police install fixed license plate readers in area “hot spots”

But that giant network is also the focus of the ACLU.

The organization wrote in a recent blog post that “such a system provides even small-town sheriffs access to a sweeping and powerful mass-surveillance tool. … Every new customer that buys and installs the company’s cameras extends Flock’s network, contributing to the creation of a centralized mass surveillance system of Orwellian scope.”

Previously: Suffolk Police installing license plate cameras

Neudigate said the cameras are especially effective in locating stolen cars, wanted individuals and missing persons. He said motor vehicle theft was down 24% last year, its lowest in the past four years, and it’s down another 17% year to date in 2024.

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