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Morgan Hill
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November 29, 2022

Council approves expansion of police camera network

MHPD seeking public input on locations for new Flock devices

The Morgan Hill Police Department is asking the public for input on where the city should install new fixed automated license plate reading cameras on roadways throughout town.

MHPD Capt. Mario Ramirez said at a recent city council meeting that police officials prefer to install the cameras—part of the Flock Safety network that has been in operation locally for about a year—on “arterial” streets with heavy traffic such as Monterey Road, Butterfield Boulevard, Tennant Avenue and others.

There are currently 25 such cameras affixed to light poles and other roadside infrastructure throughout Morgan Hill. The cameras are able to scan and read license plates from passing vehicles, and police use that data to track stolen cars, suspects who are on the run and investigate other non-violent crimes involving vehicles.

The Morgan Hill City Council initially approved a contract in July 2021 with Flock Safety to install and operate the system, at a cost of $62,500 for one year.

The council on Aug. 17 unanimously agreed to renew the contract for another year and install another 25 cameras throughout Morgan Hill. The cameras will cost $74,750 for the equipment and software upgrade; plus an annual cost of $66,000, according to city staff.

Ramirez noted that in the year that MHPD has been using the Flock system, police have seen major increases in the numbers of stolen vehicles recovered and suspects apprehended. “We have made over 127 arrests and recovered 170 vehicles” using data from the Flock cameras, Ramirez told the council. “In the year prior, there were only 16 vehicles recovered. That’s about a 963% increase in our ability to locate and apprehend people” who are suspected of felony crimes using vehicles, Ramirez said.

MHPD has used the Flock cameras to help solve commercial burglaries, in-progress burglaries, felony assaults, package and mail thefts, as well as to locate wanted persons, two homicide suspects and more, Ramirez said.

The vast majority of those arrested using Flock Safety cameras are from outside Morgan Hill, he added.

“We wouldn’t ask for additional cameras if we didn’t think they were beneficial to our organization,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez told the council that MHPD staff have already identified locations in Morgan Hill where new Flock cameras would be useful, including in the southwest corner of town and areas to the east.

Councilmember Yvonne Martinez Beltran asked Ramirez to solicit public input on where at least some of the 25 newly approved cameras should be installed.

“We’ve done a lot of funding for the police department, as is warranted, and we want to make sure we use our resources citywide,” Martinez Beltran said.

The public can offer their input by emailing Ramirez at [email protected]

The City of Morgan Hill owns all the footage captured by the Flock cameras, according to city staff. Any alerts sent to officers from the cameras are verified through the emergency dispatch center before officers respond. The system includes audit capabilities and officers must have cause and permission to access information from the cameras.

Footage captured by the Flock Safety cameras is stored securely, and deleted automatically after 30 days, police said. The cameras are not used in conjunction with towing or repossession companies, immigration status, unpaid fines or traffic enforcement.

According to the online “transparency portal” for the Morgan Hill Flock system, the existing 25 cameras have read the license plates of more than 483,000 vehicles in the last 30 days, resulting in 36 vehicle searches in the same time period.

Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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