SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – In an effort to fight crime, law enforcement in Springfield and Greene County are using what’s known as Flock cameras.
These cameras have the capability to read license plates and take pictures of every car that drives past.
While police say these cameras aid investigations, even helping catch a suspect in a deadly shooting just this week, others worry the cameras could be an invasion of privacy.
“I think there are definite First Amendment concerns and Fourth Amendment concerns,” said Erica Mynarich, a criminal defense attorney in Springfield.
Paige Ripee with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office says Flock cameras are a helpful tool.
“They obviously take pictures of vehicles and specifically license plates, but they can also be utilized for like missing persons, people with warrants, stolen plates, stolen vehicles,” Rippee said.
Mynarich says there is more to these cameras than catching criminals.
“These cameras aren’t just catching illegal conduct. These cameras are watching millions of people every day just going about their daily lives. They can also see who you are, and who you are hanging out with. So if they want to put in your plate and then pull up the picture, they can see the other cars around you. They can try to figure out who are you associating with. There are just so many privacy concerns outside of illegal activity,” Mynarich said.
Chad Marlow, the senior policy counsel with the ACLU says police can learn more than just what car you drive.
“They can see what doctor’s office, what political meetings,” Marlow said. “They even learn where you sleep at night, which may or may not be your home”
Flock cameras have been in use across Springfield for several years. There are currently 21 cameras stationed on various light poles around the city.
Lt. Paige Rippee with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said drivers should only be concerned about the cameras if they committed a crime.
“I mean you don’t steal a car and don’t drive around Springfield area with it because these cameras are in multiple places,” said Rippee.