Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Flock Safety. WarwickPost.com regrets, and has corrected, the error.
WARWICK, RI — Video cameras installed without notice on Cranston, Pawtucket and Woonsocket Streets could be coming to Warwick if the Council OKs a bid exception for Warwick traffic cameras from WPD Chief Col. Brad Connor.
Connor said the bid exception request for the service is necessary because the company, Flock Safety, is unique among vendors serving Rhode Island, according to a memo included in Wednesday’s Warwick City Council meeting documents.
“The exception to bid requirement is requested because Flock Safety cameras are currently the only system of its kind being used in Rhode Island,” Connor wrote.
The WPD is seeking a contract with Flock for 10 of the security cameras, costing $52,500, to be paid from federal asset forfeiture funding, Connor wrote in his memo.
“Flock Safety’s patented Vehicle FingerprintTM technology lets you search by vehicle make, color, type, license plate, state of the license plate, missing plate, covered plate, paper plate, and unique vehicle details like roof racks, bumper stickers, and more,” the company boasts on its website.
Typical license plate readers rely on infrared reflection to capture standard license plate numbers, according to Flock Safety. That recognizes characters only and often excludes temporary plates and state recognition. Flock Safety cameras, however, take a clear moving image of every vehicle that passes.
While the company may not have competitors within Rhode Island, it is not without peers in the United States. Genetec also provides license plate reading technology.
Regardless of whether Flock is allowed a no-bid exception to a contract with Warwick, such public surveillance has drawn the criticism of the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU noted that in addition to the secretive nature of previous RI camera installations and the lack of public input into those decisions, there are other considerations that should give people pause.
“Marketing material on Flock Safety’s website promotes the ability that this technology has to enable searches not only by license plate number, but by identifying vehicle attributes like the color or make of the car. The public shouldn’t be deluded into thinking that these cameras act solely as ‘license plate reader’ devices when they, in fact, track and store much more detailed information than license plate numbers. The capability that these cameras have to indiscriminately track when and where drivers go can create an oppressive system of government surveillance in a free society,” the ACLU stated.
The Warwick City Council meets Wednesday, 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, 3275 Post Road Warwick, RI. The full agenda and documents for the meeting are linked below:
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